Turing School of Software & Design is not a bootcamp; it's a 7-month, full-time training program in Denver,CO turning driven students into professional developers. Students who take their Back End Engineering Program or their front End Engineering Program will be surrounded by a supportive team dedicated to their career success. Turing's mission is to unlock human potential by training a diverse, inclusive student body to succeed in high-fulfillment technical careers, while Turing's vision is a world powered by technology where the people building it represent the people using it. Turing is the brainchild of Jeff Casimir and Jumpstart Labs (you might recognize these names from Hungry Academy and gSchool, among other achievements). The staff at Turing emphasizes their educational experience, not just their years as developers, and promises that successful graduates of the school will be valuable contributors to the company they choose to work for through community-driven education. The application process is rolling and requires a resume, writing sample, video response, and logic challenge. Students in the Turing program will learn TDD with Ruby, Ruby Web Applications with Sinatra & Rails, Professional Web Applications, and High-Performance Applications with APIs and Services. In addition, Turing now accepts the GI Bill and offers M-1 visa assistance.
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- 8 Companies Who Actually Love Hiring Coding Bootcampers
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Recent Turing Reviews: Rating 4.77
Moving from the basics of object-oriented programming and software execution to building database-backed web applications in Sinatra and Rails, our Back-End Engineering program provides the fundamental skills to launch your career in programming.
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In PersonFull Time40Hours/week28 Seats
- Skills Fund (Cost of Living Financing Available)
- Climb (Cost of Living Financing Available)
- Payment Plan
- Alternative Financing available for students who are not approved by our lending partners.
- $4,000 Diversity Scholarship
- Placement Test
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week28 Seats
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I went into the back end program with only about half of a free online course under my belt, so to say that it was a struggle would be an understatement. The days, nights and weekends all sort of blended together, but I never felt like I was wasting time. There were always resources available, from the incredibly dedicated instructors, to the crazy network of mentors that Jeff Casimir has built over the years.
I ultimately pulled through, and am very happy with the direction my career has taken since. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who wants a career in software development.
Turing is a community.
It's not a bootcamp. It is not a business. It's not a guarantee. It's not easy and it's not for everyone. But if you've found this review because you are confident you would like to pursue a career in something Turing can teach you, it could be a dream opportunity. It was for me.
I graduated from the back-end program in April 2016 and am currently employed as an Associate Software Engineer in the New England area. My post-Turing job search consisted of 3 months, 4 on site interviews, and 2 offers.
Some of Turing's defining characeristics are its non-profit status, Jeff Casimir's reputation and experience in education, its duration compared to the industry average, its support of honest and transparent graduation/employment statistic reporting (which is sorely lacking in the industry right now), its constant self-reflection and "how can we do this better" perspective, and its desire to engage more women, minorities, and folks facing disadvantages in the software engineering community.
Would play again 10 times out of 10.
Graduated August 2017.
Turing was able to transform me, someone with a few months of self-taught ruby experience into a full fledged software engineer at a NYC Tech company.
You probably have read about the challenging nature of the curriculum and how it was the most difficult experience for each respective graduate. This is all true, and I found it the same. The special-ness of the community and curriculum is really one of a kind. However, I would like for this review to really indentify if Turing is for you.
1) This is not a place to go if you just want the end goal (big money job) without the likeness (i really dont like the word passion) for code. The only way through this program and into an employers hands (which is getting harder by the day) is to really like what you are doing. The largest successs that Turing has produced has been students who exemplified this. Students who have stayed later, put in more work then needed and had truly immersed themselves. Although it's possible, a part time commitment would have been a disaster for me (easily sidetracked with a proclivity for laziness).
2) This is an unconventional educational experience, and needs to be welcomed with zero preconceived notion of what education is. I've seen doctorate grads be on the same level as college dropouts.
3) Please please please make sure you are interested in code before going. This is not an impulse decision!
Overall, Turing provides a rock-solid curriculum taught by instructors who truly care within a diverse community of hungry individuals. For the real review now....
1) Instructors *****: Most of the instructors who were best for me are gone now, however Turing does a great job of creating a staff with a diverse set of teaching styles and personalities that you are bound to find one that inspires you. I am a bit worried with the recent overflow of student -> instructors, but I have not seen a drop off in learning outcomes.
2) Curriculum *****: Phenomenal, always in flux and truly agile. Don't ditch the difficulty! The "oh shit" --> "i'm useless" -> "holy crap..maybe" -> "project review" was eye opening for me as a learning process and a real confidence builder. I'm now confident to take on any challenge on the job and being able to figure it out.
3) Job Assistance **: One area I would say that could be improved. I had very llttle corresponence post grad with the jobs team (one lead) (Full disclosure: This could be in part to me as well, I was focused on New York Only, and networking with alumni on my own) . Alumni are the real winners here. They are always helpful and spread apart the globe at great companies. If you are worried about job placements...see number 1 above. This is a perk of Turing, not the end goal. A strong, persistent developer will always be able to find a job, it is up to you to get to this point before graduation.
Overall, Turing as a decision is hard to recommend without a strong asterisk. That asterisk is you. What are your goals, who are you and why are you looking at coding bootcamps? If you truly feel this is what you want to do, it would be hard pressed to find a better school than this.
Lastly, one cannot review Turing without a mention of it's social mission. A small part (depending who you ask) of the Turing experience is awakening it's students to contemporary liberal ideology. Overall, it is a welcoming and not forceful introduction. This was never a real focus for me, as the coding education is what truly inspired, and this was fine. I always thought through what Turing did best (code), inherently does a far better job at creating great, open-minded people, not the explicit group sessions (gear-ups). As an FYI, my non-commital nature to their admirable political and social mission never impacted my outcomes, grades or helpfulness from the staff and Jeff Casimir
That being said, I will always be thankful for this experience! THANK YOU!
I graduated from the back-end program in August 2016. I currently work as a Software Developer in Rails + Angular 2.
I chose between Turing and Galvanize and the main reasons that swayed me towards Turing were:
- Jeff Casimir's reputation in the industry
- The non-profit status, which I didn't have a lot of concern for their mission at the time, but more that they couldn't sell my educational experience to investors to expand the program further and further.
- The ability to repeat modules. I was terrified to make a career change and afraid that I wouldn't be able to make it through the program on my first try and didn't want to be dragged along for 6 months not understanding anything past a certain point because I didn't understand a specific concept. (I didn't repeat any modules in case you were curious).
- After visiting the (old) basement (the new one is really nice too) for my interview, I was blown away by the energy that went through the space, people in every available space, extremely focused and concentrated working through projects and helping each other.
The program is constantly changing and my review is probably hideously outdated when compared to the processes / curriculum, but I love the ability for them to change when something doesn't work. The teachers have your best interest at heart and want to see you succeed and learn, even if it means calling you out when they know you're not giving your all. The community is amazing and the network of mentors is uncomparable. I graduated and it took me 87 days to receive my first offer. That might seem like a long time, but in the end not coding bootcamp can hand you a job at the end of the program. There were people in my cohort that had job offers before graduation, but they put in the work of networking and making those connections early. You graduate and show up as someone with no professional experience. Turing helps you with professional / personal development and how to approach and overcome the hurdles of entering a new industry.
I also now work in a framework we weren't taught at Turing (Angular 2), but didn't have any trouble diving in and learning. I know it sounds cliché, but you really do learn how to learn different programming patterns and aren't pigeonholed into a specific language.
Turing was great. They helped me transition from a career I disliked and become a better person along the way. I'll be in their debt forever.
I'll start by saying I graduated three weeks ago, and am now in my second week of work as a software developer with a good company. I came from a non-tech background (BA in Creative Writing and a career as a commercial fisherman). I did my research about a lot of coding schools, and Turing was exactly what I expected and was pitched. It is extremely demanding time-wise, but the emotional stress varies widely among students.
The curriculum seems about as good as possible for 7 intense months, and the core teachers are all exceptional. As many people have said, one of the best part is the other students. We've all made a lot of life-long friends. A few people have been rubbed the wrong way by the PC side of the school's mission, but students should be aware of this element before enrolling and be prepared to participate in tough discussions or quietly disengage from that part. The job-assitance aspect of the school is continually improving, and many students find jobs through referrals from the staff (myself included).
If you're looking to transition into a software career through an intensive program, Turing is in the top tier of options.
I chose Turing because I knew of Jeff Casimer and what he had done at gSchool. At the time I approached Jeff the Turing program was an ember in Jeff's mind, but I knew that it would be the right choice. It was a little bit of a bet to invest my future in something that was just starting out but my has it paid off.
At Turing, they don't just teach you how to code in ruby or rails. They use those languages to provide you with a set of tools that will allow you to go out into the workforce and work on almost anything you want to, in any language you want to. That is so much more valuable than learning just a language. Since I graduated I've been able to follow my interests and pick up new technoligies relatively quickly.
The other amazing thing about Turing is the network of people. The people, teachers, students, alumni, and mentors, at Turing are awesome. Everyone continues to insire me to learn more and also better myslef as a person. The mentorship program, where alumni and other developers in the field can mentor current students has been not only helpful to those students I mentore, but helpful to me. It has been an invaluable asset in increasing my confidence in my knowledge and also teaching me new things all the time.
Turing was and continues to be a source of knowledge or personal development for me. I highly recommend it.
My favorite thing about Turing is that they are continuously improving. They constantly iterate on the program by trying new things - keeping what works and scraping what doesn't. This attitude is what convinces me that they are sincere about giving you the best education and experience possible.
The education I got was incredible. I took a great job a few weeks after graduating, and by the second week I already had code in the production app. I was fully prepared to come into the company and start writing code immediately (without having previous tech experience!).
I'm incredibly proud to have been a Turing student. They have an incredible community and incredible staff. I would choose to attend Turing again in a heart beat.
After talking with people who went to other coding programs, I realized just how special Turing is.
1. Turing is a non-profit (EVERYONE on the team is there for the students, not $$$).
2. The program is way longer and more in-depth than almost every other program.
Honestly, Turing folks do want they say they do. They help (and rigourously push) you to become a solid developer in 7 months. Will you be showered with job offers upon graduation? No. Getting a job requires hussle, salemanship (show off all that great work you've been doing!), and connections. Turing can help with all that, but it will still be up to you to find a job that works for you. It's not easy. Taking time and money to change careers is a big commitment; budget at least a year from the time you quit your old job until your first developer paycheck comes in.
Turing was a life-changing opportunity for me and I will forever be grateful for it. In my experience, Jeff Casimir and the Turing staff did everything in their power to help provide an environment where students not only become sought-after developers, but well rounded people.
Jeff cares about providing an environment where student success is prioritized. Period. Not only does he and the staff continuously improve on the curriculum EVERY cohort, but he is not above fixing a toilet or installing a ramp for students that need it. Something you don’t see in a lot of leaders.
The support that I received from the staff was BY FAR the best I had from any post-secondary education I’ve been apart of. There were many nights / weekends where they sacrificed their own personal time to help my classmates and I work on problems and issues we were stuck on. They don’t just tell you that student success is important to them, they show you by the commitment they put towards their students each day.
As everyone else has already said, Turing is VERY HARD! It demands a lot of your time and you will be mentally tested everyday. For 7 months, you will have to commit to becoming the best developer you can be. You will have to sacrifice time with your family and friends (I’m a husband and father of two), but the education you get in return is more than worth it.
I’m not going to tell you that everything at Turing is perfect. The process of receiving a mentor was somewhat confusing when I was there, but they have currently taken strides to improve that process and make sure that every student has the ability to get a mentor in the most efficient way.
Overall, the decision to go to Turing has been the best career decision that I have made. I received a job offer before I finished school and am loving my job. None of this would have been possible without the help, guidance, and support I received at Turing!
Turing is one of the most challenging endeavors you will ever pursue. It is seven months of intense software development training and personal assessment. Each day you will be pushed beyond your mental and physical boundaries. Some days, you will question if you have the stamina to successfully complete the program. In the end, however, you will recognize that attending Turing was one of the best decisions you ever made!
I went into Turing with zero programming experience. I had only completed a couple of online Ruby tutorials but knew immediately that I wanted to pursue software development. If you are new to programming and are considering attending Turing, here are a few personal recommendations.
First, be 100% certain you are ready to place your life "on hold" for seven months. Have your finances in order and minimize the number of distractions outside of Turing so you can focus entirely on the program.
Second, prepare as much as possible before starting the program. For example, I had not touched a Mac in over 22 years, so it was one more thing (on top of many other things) I had to learn during my first few weeks at Turing. If possible, I suggest you get Mac laptop and start getting familiar with it. Choose a text editor (Atom is very beginner-friendly) and learn some key bindings. Play around with the Terminal and enable tab completion. Being able to navigate your machine at a reasonable rate will help you keep pace with class lectures and exercises. Also, I would recommend completing a good Rails tutorial so you can get a better idea of its MVC pattern.
Third, if a certain subject area is not clicking, seek help! Turing moves fast so don't let too much time pass by before asking for help. Given that I was part of the first cohort (#1406) at Turing, resources were somewhat limited during my first two modules and that made the program even more challenging for me. It wasn't until halfway of module three that I was able to find a good mentor who was commited to helping me. Fortunately, Turing has since increased and improved its mentor participation and has also structured student "posses" in which students from cohorts ahead of yours can serve as helpful resources.
Each instructor at Turing is both an educator and a programmer. Their commitment to your individual success and the success of the program is unquestionable. They each invest countless hours preparing lectures, enhancing the curriculum, and helping students outside of normal hours. I genuinely admire their dedication and passion. Other programs experience high turnover with instructors, which can often lead to inconsistency and instability in a program's curriculum and overall success.
As soon as you're accepted into Turing, you become part of an awesome community! Many are recent graduates of Jeff Casimir's previous training programs and Turing, so they know exactly what it takes to get through the seven months. Others are seasoned developers and industry leaders who fully support Turing by generously devoting their personal time to help the program succeed. Obviously, I am extremely proud to be part of this remarkable network!
Turing values its culture and its curriculum equally, so the administration does a great job of filtering potential students in order to maintain a healthy learning environment. That said, please understand that you will be in many stressful situations throughout the course of the program and it is essential that you and your classmates communicate effectively. Also, if you notice one of your classmates is falling behind, take the initiative to help him/her get back on track; it will be a great learning opportunity for you both and it will pay significant dividends as the course advances. And, since most of the assignments are group-based projects, ensuring that every member of the group can contribute similarly will lighten the workload and enhance the experience for everyone.
Please understand that there is no such thing as a perfect software development training program. There is a lot to learn and there is never enough time. However, I can assure you that Turing has the best resources and systems in place to turn you into an employable developer by the end of the seven-month course. Just like anything else in life, if you go in with a positive attitude, work hard, and make the best out of every day, you will have a great experience. Good luck!
I was CNC machinist when I made the decision to join Turing. Without a computer background I found myself struggling at times to comprehend some of the concepts that were being taught and asked many a 'dumb' question. I also had a wife and two kids and only got to see them on weekends during the 7 months. Because of this I put in roughly 70 hours/week during weekdays and took the weekends off to be with family. This program is everything they've advertised and can totally change the trajectory of your life. My income tripled from one year to the next and opportunities are so much bigger than what I had before. But do not enter this program thinking you will skate through to graduation and be handed a great high paying job.You will work your ever loving butt off. Just know that up front. If you are good with that than Turing is the place for you.
I have faced many a development challenge since I entered the industry a little over a year ago and found the training that I received to have prepared me fully to handle anything that has been thrown my way. Totally worth it.
If you are serious about becoming a software developer and working in the field, attend Turing. I've always found that it is the people that make the program. The staff at Turing, including the executive director are some of the most hard working, passionate, and compassionate people I've met. They are serious about the work they do and the students they teach. They are continuously seeking feedback and making improvements to the curriculum and work environment.
The staff works hard to ensure that the curriculum is relevant and up to date with the latest industry standards and best practices. In addition to teaching and fine tuning the curriculum, staff members are involved in the tech community, hosting meet ups, speaking at conferences, and participating in tech initiatives around the US.
Turing has an amazing community of people, including alumni, professional developers, corporate executives, government officials, and founders of tech startups. These 'friends of turing' are influencers in their fields who use their influence to give back to the community and advance the careers of new developers. They share their knowledge and insight with current students, often making themselves available to mentor over a google chat, cup of coffee, or a drink after work.
The program is very challenging. There is a steep learning curve, but if you work hard, hang in there, and reach out to the turing community for help when you need it, you will acquire the necessary skills for a great career in software development.
I was over worked and under appreciated in my last job, and was looking for a career change but wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I heard about Turing and wasn't sure quite what it was but knew it came with a great reputation so I went ahead and applied just to check it out. CHANGED MY LIFE! What a difference one year can make!
Why I love Turing - the people!
Jeff: Thank you to Jeff for creating such an amazing community and bringing all of these great people together. He cares about so much more than just pumping out devs, but giving back and making an impact on the tech community as a whole. He has stood up for me and lead me to some amazing oportunities including the connection to my job now. He can be tough and will push you to your limits but he has the best of intentions of pushing you out of your comfort zone and onto the next level.
The instructors: The instructors are amazing, and I can't thank them enough for all that they have done. They care so much about their students and take the time to find ways of explaining things in a relatable way, even for those with no programming background. There is no judgement for things you don't know before coming in. If you put in the respect and effort needed, it is more than returned back.
The mentors: I think it shows the amount of respect there is for the Turing community by seeing all of the awesome Ruby/Rails/JS community members that give up lots of their time to help students for free. I learned so much from the mentors I had while I was at Turing, and I continue to grow and solidify my skills as I mentor students currently in the program.
The students: You will spend A LOT of time with your classmates. Spending that much time with any group, there will be cases of friction of course but that was by far the most respectful group of people I have ever met. There is a lot to cover, and each student may choose to focus on different aspects. Getting to see what your peers work on is a great inspriation and opens so many doors to expanding your knowledge. Check out a demo day if you want to see what the students are up to.
Course was hard, be preparred to not do anything else for those 7 months. Just as nothing in life is perfect, it's a high stress environment and surely you'll run into some roadblocks but making through those just makes you that much stronger of a person. Couldn't be happier with my choice to go to Turing.
I went into Turing without any programming experience, and graduated in December 2014. As of this writing, I have been a software developer for over a year, coming up on a year and a half. Here's my review for anyone thinking about Turing: if your serious about wanting to learn how to be a developer, you should absolutely do it. No question about it.
Turing is hard. Really hard. One of the beautiful things about it is that even if you have no development experience, you can still succeed among people who do. You will come out of the program better equipped than a lot of CS degrees.None of the reviews are lying about that. But you have to work.
You will be expected to do a lot. Turing is very project oriented, so the answers aren't handed to you. You won't get hand-held, you won't have 'blow off' work. You will probably fail at some stuff, and you will learn to fail, relearn, and keep on moving. Thats how software development is, and you are learning to be a software developer. On top of technical skills, you're expected to be involved in the community. You have to speak in front of groups. You have to think critically about tech as a whole, and your role in it. You have to learn to collaborate, how to communicate, and a host of other things that I didn't personally think were going to be difficult, but were.
Where Turing stands out is in their community. The staff is second to none. They put hours and hours of time into the curriculum, and the students. They don't always make decisions you like, but they do make decisions that make you better. They change the things that don't work. Students have access to a huge group of developers who are willing to mentor on anything from technical skills to general work/life balance advice. Mentors work with students one on one, and it's an invaluable experience to be able to sit down with professional developers and learn from them, starting basically from day one.
As far as job hunting, I had signed on to a job before I officially graduated. This is 100% thanks to Turing and the community, as a few engineers from my current company came directly to Turing to interview potential candidates. I can't speak for the job hunt after the program completes, except to say that everyone in my cohort is employed as a developer.
If you're looking for a program to teach you technical skills and only technical skills, Turing might not be for you. If you're looking for a class to go to for a few hours a day and then go home, Turing might not be for you. If you are looking for a 7 month program to be fully immersed in a skill and in a community, to be challenged beyond what you thought possible, to make connections that will last you the rest of your career, and to have the best skills possible going into a new career, Turing is for you.
Turing was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The school was everything that I hoped it would be. I was challenged everyday, it has probably been one of the most productive seven months of my life.
I'm now happily employed at an innovative startup in Santa Monica, which was one of outcomes that I dreamed coming out of this program.
Looking back at my experience at Turing I can say that I had a blast, if you would have asked me while I was attending Turing I may have not been that enthuiastic.
Turing was a real difficult program, and I believe it has gotten a bit more difficult (a good thing). At times it may feel like Turing likes to torture students, but the reality is that Turing's goal is to make sure you get a job offer, and that becomes very diffucult when a student doesn't have experience working through difficult problems.
I can't thank Turing enough, Turing has set me for a very rewarding career path I wouldn't have otherwise.
Extremely knowledgeable. Some people will say that the instructors don't make themselves available, but the truth is that they do their best to allocate their time efficiently to help as many people as they can, which means that the more clear and specific your questions are, the better the instructors can help you. I've seen instructors go out of their way on many occasions to help out students, which meant coming in before classes and staying after classes.
Very intense. This is one of the longest programs out there, clocking in at 7 months it moves fast and keeps you busy every minute. Tip: Turing just launched a front-end course that if given the chance to do over I would choose over the back-end course (https://www.turing.io/programs/front-end-engineering)
The job hunt was a bit tough, but the key is to keep sharpening your skills and meeting with as many people as you can while on the job hunt. Networking at meetups, asking people out to coffee, and sending out those resumes will eventually pay off.
My advice would be to do some programming on your own for a few months, if you really enjoy building things and solving bugs then this program is for you. Do as much prep as you can for this program, trust me you will hit the ground running.
Turing, exactly what I was looking for in higher education. This school is hands on software development from the start. The process is grueling, challenging, exhausting, and rewarding.
At the time I applied, I was working in construction and sales. I was pretty unhappy with my current career and even more upset with the standard college education system. I was pretty skeptical of the idea of Turing, because I had been burned by other short term trade school style programs. Let me just say, Turing's focus is on creating developers. Developers who are prepared and ready to start working the minute they graduate. This program really did change my life, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done.
This school is not going to hold your hand. You are taught how to think, solve and research a problem. The next 7 months of your life will be with your head down in the code. By the end, Turing will give you all the skills you need to successfully land a job in the tech industry, which is ultimately why you attend a school like Turing. Tech interviews are vastly different then any other interview process I have been through. They typically involve proving your worth with coding challenges and a full day or multiple day interviews. Just know, you will be ready!
The curriculum is always changing, as is the tech market. Try not to get too caught up looking at specific languages when deciding on a bootcamp or code school. The point is to learn a marketable skill, and don't worry, you'll pick up other languages quickly after attending Turing.
You may not always agree with everything at Turing, but I think you will agree that it works when you get out!
Turing was a challenging 7 months. The amount of new information I learned was staggering and the curriculum has grown significantly since I was a student. If you manage to find the time and patience to pull through, an amazing industry will be opened up to you. You'll get out of Turing what you put into it. They can prepare you for a hard industry to enter and one that will expect you alone to find the answers to challenging problems - even at your first job. If you deside to go to Turing, you won't walk away with a high level understanding of a few framworks. They'll give you the knowledge to progress in this career.
Before I came to Turing I had essentially zero programming knowledge - a book on HTML and one free online course. Now I am developing a Ruby application at an awesome company. A few long nights is nothing for career in software development - Turing is definitely worth the work.
Before starting Turing, I had been trying to learn how to program for about 2 years. I had worked as a wordpress developer and had a barely sustainable career hacking php templates. I ultimately found Turing and now I have a fully sustainable career doing something that I absolutely love.
Most of my own feelings about Turing have already been articulated here by my peers, but I do feel like my biggest takeaway from my 7 months at Turing is how to solve problems. Yes, Turing directly teaches you how to work with Ruby/Rails/JS, but I think the ancillary benefit of learning how to think like a developer is the more important takeaway. I work in devops, which Turing certainly does not explicitly teach. Others from my graduating class work exclusively in React, Meteor, or even Go. This is a testament to Turing's ability to prepare you to work in ANY sub-field of web development. Turing teaches you how to learn and, more importantly, how to think.
Turing prepared me for a career in programming more than I could have previously expected. I'm excelling at my new job and I've already contributed multiple times to a few high-profile open source projects. I have at least 5 family/friends that are trying to get into programming in some capacity. I push all of them toward Turing because I know that it's the best program in the country. If you want to become a great developer, apply to Turing.
Turing was exactly what I wish I could do in college. As a high school student, I took a few intro programming classes to get me interested, but the system was awful for me. I got an hour of each day sitting in class, most of the time not paying attention to the teacher and working on my own, which actually helped quite a bit. Almost all of my learning toward programming was in that time I got to spend fooling around on my own. But then my hour would be up and I'm on to the next class that I can sleep in.
After high school, I knew I wanted to go to college for some kind of computer science, but I wasn't very fond of taking a lot of other classes in college that I probably would never use. I went to speak a computer science professor to plan out my next step in life, and he recommended I check out Turing. This was exactly what I was looking for: a very focused and specific education without any of the typical schooling nonsesne.
Hopefully that's enough background to understand my actual review.
Overall Expirience: 5/5
I was excited every single day through the entire 7 months to show up in a basement with no windows. The community, including both instructors and students, at Turing made it easy to want to learn more. Everyone brought their best, which I appreciated quite a bit. Everyone was able to stay motivated and put in a ton of work 5 days a week.
I began at Turing as one of the first few "guinea pig" classes. When I started there, a few instructors were very evidently new, having hardly any teaching experience. If they had stayed that way the entire 7 months, I probably would have rated this category lower. Every instructor was there because of a passion to teach, and not for any other reason. I saw instructors hired that came in honestly as awful teachers. Then after only a month or so, there was obvious improvement and huge drive to improve as a teacher. I graduated about a full year ago, and I'm certain all of the instructors, including new ones, either are great teachers now, or working hard to become one.
When I was at Turing, all of the curriculum for the first few months was very fleshed out and worked well for everyone. Further along, the projects got much more vague, as did the teaching for new material. Keep in mind again, I was attending very early on to Turing, so I assume this is improved quite a bit by now.
Job Assistance: 2/5
I'm a bit of a special case for this section in the fact that I was just out of high school and never had a job before. I had never learned about or had to do any job searching, interviewing, etc before, so I was fairly lost on starting this up. Turing did plan a few job fair-like events, helped with some resume writing, but I hardly got much more out of it. I won't put all the blame on Turing though, I could have been more helpful to the process myself, but overall I struggled heavily looking for a job between my age, my 0 expirence, and the resources provided by Turing.
I graduated from Turing in December of 2014, officially making this review long overdue. It also puts me in a bit of a unique situation. Yes, I finished the program over a year ago, but I've been deeply involved with the Turing community for the better part of two years. Seven months as a student, the rest as a mentor. There are several reasons I've stuck around for as long as I have, and I'll do my best to express those here.
If you're looking for a tl;dr, here it is: if you have a chance to attend Turing, do it. The instructors, curriculum, and all of the amazing people I've met along the way enabled me to become the kind of person I've wanted to be for years -- both personally and professionally.
It really did change my life.
Before we get into too much detail, there's one thing that's particularly important to me -- the Turing community. I was fortunate enough to see Turing grow into what it is today: a thriving, open, and kind community of educators, students, alumni, and friends. They're the reason I am where I am, which is why I'm doing my best to pay it forward. I've been a part of Turing get-togethers in at least four major US cities, and I've barely scratched the surface. If you do decide to attend Turing, the community will be your biggest asset.
Though my work took me away from Denver well over a year ago, I think my proximity to Turing over the years gives me a good foundation to speak to the program's values as well as the current state of things. Turing began as twenty strangers in a basement -- little did I know how many lifelong friends would be among them. And a lot has changed since then.
The staff has grown at least four-fold, the curriculum is constantly evolving, and plenty of new initiatives like student-led workshops have been introduced.
My thoughts here will draw from the whole of my time at Turing, both as a student and as a mentor. Be forewarned that this review will be overwhelmingly positive, because that was the nature of my experience. Take from it what you will.
I want to emphasize that I mean every word.
Many of Turing's instructors have professional teaching experience -- they were teachers first. As an educator, technical expertise is only useful if you're able to share that knowledge effectively.
I saw them continually go above and beyond. They put in long hours, often with little recognition. Staying after-hours with students, running workshops, acting as a project manager for student side-projects, and organizing extra-curricular activities like teaching computer science to middle-schoolers. To me, they are friends and mentors who genuinely give a shit. I appreciate them, and I can say with certainty that you will too.
It was immediately clear that Turing's mission was to train application developers. I appreciated the curriculum so much precisely because it was project-driven. We touched on computer science fundamentals, but what I really gained at Turing was the ability to solve problems. More specifically, the ability to solve problems in the pursuit of writing production-quality software. We focused on specific technologies, but my biggest takeaways were language/framework agnostic. We learned how the web works, how large web applications should be structured, service oriented architecture, how to communicate via APIs, etc.
Here's a quick rundown of my experiences with each six-week module:
Module 1: Ruby
This was my favorite module, and arguably the most challenging. We covered computer science fundamentals, and learned Ruby/object-oriented programming in a non-web environment. We built things like text-based games, command-line applications, and a database management system. Working with plain old Ruby for six weeks was incredibly important for my development. Learning about things like paradigms, design patterns, and how pieces of a software system interact gave me a strong base to build upon when our cohort eventually moved our focus to web programming.
Module 2: Web Basics, Sinatra, Rails
During the first 3-4 weeks we built a few smaller web projects using Sinatra culminating in a restaurant ordering application built with Rails.
The two most valuable things I learned during this module:
* How the web works (clients, servers, protocols, etc.)
* How Rails treats the MVC pattern
The concepts I was exposed to have proved useful to me on an almost daily basis.
## Module 3: Rails in depth
The final module had a heavy focus on external APIs. One of my final projects aggregated music from sources like SoundCloud, Twitter, and YouTube.
API Interactions like this are a huge part of modern web development, and I draw on my experiences here often.
The mentor program is dear to my heart. At Turing we were part of 'posses', small groups of students who were paired with as many mentors -- all of whom were freely volunteering their time. Pairing with mentors was crucial. I saw how professional developers went about the craft of programming, and I still incorporate what I learned about their processes into my own work.
Many graduates end up becoming mentors themselves. I've been fortunate enough to work with several students throughout the duration of the program. They went through many of the same struggles I did, and saw the same kind of unfathomable growth. All of them are now taking the world of professional software by storm, contributing real value to companies who are lucky to have them.
Here's another place where the community comes into play. The Turing network is sprawling, and was the source of every single one of my fruitful leads.
I found a job about two months after graduation. Never once did I feel like I was on my own during the job hunt. I had constant support, with introductions being made, emails being sent out on my behalf, etc.
# Things I didn't like
No program is perfect, and Turing is no exception:
* Many people come to the program specifically for Jeff. If you're expecting to have him personally take you under his wing and carry you to developer excellence, don't. Some have expressed displeasure that they don't have as much exposure to Jeff as they would like. He will be a big part of your Turing experience, but he's just one individual. It's good to be realistic about what he can accomplish in his position as director.
* It wasn't communicated to our cohort that one staff member wouldn't be a part of the program. In the end, it wouldn't have affected my decision and by now it's water under the bridge. But this one stung, and I wish it was communicated to me up front.
If you've made it this far, you know that I'm biased. I'll say this anyways: Turing is the only program of it's kind I'd ever recommend to a friend or family member, and it's the only place I'd recommend my employer hire from. This amazing and perpetually-expanding group of people changed my life for the better in more ways than I could ever express.
I am still waiting for the day that I go into work and do not have the thought that “it really worked”. It is difficult to think of another plan I have had for my life, that went so smoothly. My experience as a Turing student went exactly as advertised, and in many ways exceeded my expectations.
The near seven months I spent at Turing were surely the most challenging months of my life. Never have I experienced so clearly what it means to feel uncomfortable with prolonged and intentional struggle. Without this struggle, I am not sure how I could have gained such a colossal amount of knowledge so quickly.
To do well at The Turing School requires self motivation and a stubbornness to learn. The curriculum and staff are there to guide your way, but it is up to each individual student to take advantage of offered learning opportunities. The best, and most distinctive aspect of Turing may be its collaborative and supportive community. The superb mentorship that I had the entire length of the program was crucial to my progress as a student.
When I graduated from Turing, I felt like I was just prepared enough to get a junior developer position. Which is exactly what I had hoped for - to gain the knowledge necessary to continue learning while being employed as a developer. I ended up with three possibilities for employment, two of which the staff at Turing had put me in touch with, and the third, I only knew about because a Turing alumnus is a developer there. Now, I work with an incredibly supportive team, just down the road from Turing.
Despite the rigor of the Turing School program, I had the most fun of my life during those months. I left as a stronger, more fulfilled person.
Before Turing I had no experience with building software. I had my Master's degree on hold and was looking for something that was a better fit. I looked everywhere, I eventually happened upon web development through some friends. They told me if I was serious about becoming a developer, gSchool was the way to go (Turing didn't exist yet). In the process of getting more information about gSchool, I learned about Jeff Casimir and a new program he was going to start called Turing.
I contacted Jeff to grab coffee and talk about this new program. He generously gave me some of his time and he explained his reasoning for branching off to start Turing. I don't want to talk too much about Jeff or his character, because this review is of the quality of Turing's program. But since it's been brought up in other reviews, I'll quickly say this:
In the 30ish minutes I spent talking to him, the following became abundantly clear:
- He places enormous value on the quality of the curriculum
- His emphasis on pedagogy (teaching philosophy) permeates the entire program
- He cares very much about the quality of his students
- He is constantly experimenting and tweaking the program to make it better
I've spent a lot of time in the education world; learning, teaching, and creating curriculum. I can pretty quickly spot when something is the real deal. I was sold on Turing. That said, I wanted to be a software engineer more than anything, so I hedged my bets. I applied to both gSchool and Turing, and, in the same week, was accepted to both. It was a weird position to be in. gSchool was an established program that was churning out devs who were getting hired almost immediately, and now I was thinking jumping ship to join a program that didn't even exist yet. I didn't want anything to stand in the way of me being a software engineer.
I went with Turing because I believed Jeff and his team had my best interest at heart. And I believed they would make me the best developer I could be in 7 months.
I started with the first class in in June 2014. There was no furniture. There was nothing hanging on the walls. We built Turing from scratch. I worked harder than I ever have in my life, and I absolutely loved it. I had an offer from LivingSocial a week after I finished the program, and I started the following month. My team has been impressed with my performance from my very first day, and I absolutely love my job.
I don't like the term 'bootcamp'. Maybe it's because it's overused. I prefer calling the program an 'intensive', because I think it gets at the heart of what Turing is. Imagine taking several years of computer science knowledge and condensing it down to 24 weeks (27 including intermission weeks). That's Turing. It's a very high-octane environment. Everything you learn, you will use in the field. There's no time for fluff. There's no room for spoon-feeding. With that in mind, it's important to know that Turing is not for everyone, and there's no judgment in that.
The program has greatly improved since I went through it, but the same core principles are still in place. Here's what you should expect:
Turing is extremely practice-oriented.
There will be lectures and walk-throughs to help explain concepts, but the bulk of your time will be spent doing actual programming. Some people complain about this approach by saying there is little support and oversight from instructors, or "I might as well have taught myself." While I understand the frustration behind this sentiment, my personal experience as a student and as a mentor of students in the program, has been that this is very rarely the case.
Instead, I find it more common to see students who don't effectively utilize the support they have available (mentors, instructors, other students, etc.) Improvements can certainly be made in this area, but it won't alleviate the struggle from the process, nor should it. One of the most valuable lessons/skills I learned at Turing was increasing my mental endurance. Learning to struggle through a problem and enduring the pain of being stuck for a long time (or flat-out failure) is one of the most important skills you can have as a developer (as is learning how and when to ask for help). And it is incredibly frustrating, especially in the beginning. I don't want to make light of that. But that skill is what has enabled me to continually grow as a developer.
The core philosophy that drives this practice-oriented approach is that the #1 thing that makes you a better programmer is programming a lot. The lectures and walk-throughs are there to make sure you don't have any potholes and don't run off the reservation. But the time spent actually programming is what makes you a better developer.
Turing is thorough.
This isn't a 9 week bootcamp. You be typing `rails new` for quite a while. You'll start with lessons designed to teach you how machines store, organize, and retrieve information. You'll spend a lot of time working in Ruby, but really you're learning how to solve computer science problems. Ruby is simply the context for solutions. The program is geared toward developing things for the web. But you'll dive down to see how a relational database works (by building one), set up and deploy to a VPS, and fully utilize the browser.
A lot of programs call themselves 'full-stack', and in some sense that's true. But there is so much more you can learn in an extended program such as Turing.
Turing is social-justice oriented.
This is a natural part of the Turing ethos. Turing, by its nature, exists to make becoming a software developer more accessible to more people. In addition to this, the program is intentional about actively supporting and promoting diversity in their programs. There are many reasons for this stance, both moral and business, but at Turing you should know that social-justice comes baked in. You'll see it in (and hear it from) the instructors, staff, and a large portion of the students, alumni, and supporters. If diversity and social-justice isn't something you care about, or at least in favor of, Turing might not be the best choice for you.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the instructors at Turing. They are constantly critiquing and improving their lessons and are incredibly generous with their time for students. One of the stand-out qualities I appreciated while in the program was that they were not only good developers, but also skilled teachers.
THE JOB HUNT
I've already mentioned my personal experience with the job hunt, but I'd like to talk about it a bit more, because it can often be a confusing and frustrating bit for students. The hunt is not easy. You are still a junior developer looking for your first job in a new field where you likely have no relevant experience, and a vast number of companies will say they are only looking for seniors. That's the norm. Keep that in mind. There is no job lined up and waiting for you at the end. It's a hunt. And there is a lot of noise from people who finished a few online tutorials and apply for everything. But Turing gives you three tools for your job hunt when you finish (and it's important to consider them in this order).
- Your skills are a cut above the crowd. When you make it to the technical interview, the proof is in the pudding. You'll be ready. And instead of being 1 candidate out of 300 applicants, you're probably one out of three.
- The endurance you built during the program. The same hustle that got you through Turing is what will make your job hunt successful. You will probably have to apply to a lot of companies, follow up with a few, and decide on one.
- Career services and people to vouch for you at the end. The hunt is yours to own, but Turing (and the supporting community) can help you present yourself in the best light, prep you for technical interviews, and vouch for you as a person and developer when appropriate.
Turing has more specific data on job hunt numbers and statistics, so I'll let them speak for themselves on that. Personally, almost everyone I've known with reasonable expectations about finding a job and actually hustled throughout their job hunt has found work in under 90 days.
I mentioned earlier that my team has been impressed with my ability as a developer throughout my time at LivingSocial. I would also like to add that I felt well-prepared to work there as well. I submitted my first significant pull request within 2 weeks (the first week was largely up and running). While the scale of the applications I work on now is 50x what I was building at Turing, I was able to dive in almost right away and make significant contributions to our codebase.
Prior to Turing, I had absolutely no technical experience of any kind. I knew that if I was going to pursue a career in Software, I needed a school that was longer than 3 months(the standard length of most coding bootcamps). Since I lived in Denver prior to Turing, I pretty much narrowed down my choices to gSchool and Turing, both of which ran programs twice as long as most bootcamps. After reading many reviews, I decided to come to Turing. The reputation of Jeff Casimir(Turing founder) throughout the Ruby Commmunity was really the deciding factor for me. After graduating three weeks ago, I am 110% sure that coming to Turing was the best decision I could have made. I am currently interviewing with two different companies, and I honestly haven't even really started my job search yet.
Before I came to Turing, I was a Technical Recruiter for a company in Denver, and I was primiarily recruiting web developers. After evaluating hundreds of entry level candidates with my former company, I can honestly say that after 7 months at Turing you will be exponentially more prepared than an entry level candidate with a CS degree for a role in Software Development. Turing covers advanced computer science concepts such as linked lists, binary search trees, sorting alogorithms, etc, during the first 6 weeks of the program. The remaining 75% of the program is spent learning web technologies that employers generally expect mid-senior level candidates to know, but rarely do these employers expect an entry-level candidate to have worked with so many of these technologies in the capacity that you will at Turing. All in all, Turing students are able to bring much more the table than your standard entry level candidate in the field of Web Development.
The program itself is extremely hard. LIKE REALLY HARD. This is a program that will push you well past your breaking point at times, but they will absolutely be there to support you when this happens. I have a Bachelor's degree in Sports Management, and I can honestly say that my easiest week at Turing was still much harder than my hardest week during my Undergrad. If you decide to come to Turing, be sure that you are 150% committed to Turing for 7 months and nothing else. You really won't have much of a life outside of Turing, at least that was my experience.
This is an outstanding program, with smart, driven individuals who will challenge you to do your best every single day, and I could not be happier with my decision to come to Turing.
I recommend Turing to strangers, to friends, family, and to acquaintances, because I believe the program is one of the best shots you'll give yourself at becoming a hirable developer. If you are motivated and have some inkling of hope that you can be taught to program, you have the makings of success.
My other recommendation would be to grab on and hold tight as soon as you are enrolled. It's going to be a bruising ride, but also the most thrilling of your life. You'll learn things about yourself, other people...and programming, of course...that you will not be exposed to anywhere else. A mixture of good and bad. You might emerge with some PTSD, but you'll also be so well equipped to handle anything that comes after it that recovery will be a pleasure.
My time at Turing ended almost a year ago, and I am glad I never have to go back. While I never question my decision to enroll, it was an intense environment I hope I never have to subject myself to again.
Turing is ever-evolving. The pros of this are that the school is continually striving to improve, and that the net sum should be a better experience for the student. I rank this pro extremely highly, and wish more educational institutions considered taking risk at all. The cons are that not all gambles end well, and you might get caught in the wake. You might be so caught in the wake that you see no effort to improve conditions until the next group of students comes around, or you might get caught in a process you disagree with entirely. You'll feel like a guinea pig, and you are, but one with a loud voice. Turing encourages you to be vocal about anything you are unhappy with, and I really feel they listen to everyone’s concerns and consider them deeply. I saw that time and time again.
No matter what the path, the end result is the same as long as you remember what you are there for: to learn how to program. That is always happening at Turing, and it's done well.
My last words are for the parents out there, especially mothers. You will have enough time to devote to this program if you prepare beforehand. Have some heart-to-hearts with your partner and get them 157% behind you. Call in all the favors your family and friends owe you. Make some freezer meals. Nix the word "housecleaning" from your vocabulary, and even sometimes "bath" and "bedtime story." You're going to miss a few things, but not really a lot, because you'll also discover you have a capacity far beyond what you already thought you had. Because that's what we mothers do...we make it work.
I wanted to quickly write a fact-based review of the Turing School. I will later state some opinions. But first, I wanted to quickly say that I think a difficult responsibility of review sites is maintaining objectivity that is useful for the reader who often is trying to make a difficult education/life decision. It seems like there's always this kind of unhelpful, subjective, and unfortunate (it's never great to see unhappy people) back and forth between people that kind of muddles the facts and it quickly becomes difficult to determine the relative weight of anything. For example, the character/personality evaluations of Jeff seem oddly out of place.... I don't think software engineers can/should be making clinical evaluations of people. But, even worse, one review of that type quickly casts a shadow over the program's objective value even though the review sounds more like a subjective evaluation of Jeff. So, I'd like to quickly just try to state some facts about the program, followed by my opinons, and the program's affect on my own life and career.
First some observations and facts:
- Everyone who graduated from my cohort currently has a job in software (I recently checked Linkedin and even the students who struggled in a module or two now have jobs). My cohort started with 15-17 people and only 2 people did not finish the program. One of those 2 people re-enrolled in another program and seemed to harbor no ill-feeling towards the staff or community. Another, a friend of mine, seemed to have some personal problems during the program and was unable to succeed. Of the remaining members, everyone currently has a job in software as a software engineer. I think two members took longer than average to find jobs (over 4 months), but they also had strong preferences for living location (they had significant others in specific cities).
- Turing's pedagogical approach is a mix of project-based learning, self-teaching, lectures, and one-on-one Q & A. It seems to be an effective variety of techniques. It is lighter on theoretical computer science material and textbooks, but for the purposes of the program (job hiring and foundational knowledge), I don't think this is a problem. Turing enables you to teach yourself this information aftewards. Java, which lends well to computer science principles, is easy to learn after Ruby.
- Turing set up multiple job fairs during my 7-month time there. One was an in-house hiring job fair where students met with potential local employers. Another was setup by Brad Feld (principle VC at Foundry). Another was an in-house visitation and hiring from the Bonobos engineering team.
- The cost of the program is cheaper on a per-day basis than the competitors out there. If you get held back multiple times (this does not happen to the majority of students), that's the only time when your costs increase past the point of competitors. Again, this does not happen to the majority of students. To suggest anything else is disingenuous. The program is also longer than the other programs which I think is necessary for a skill as complex as programming. Turing does not cover living expenses like food and housing with the tuition cost... but I don't think that should be an expected duty of a programming school.
Some subjective observations:
- Communities of people are hard to manage. In my personal opinion, it's almost impossible to have a large community of people without having some small, base level of disagreement. It happens everywhere: homes, universities, companies, and friends. It's unfortunate, but we are so different and emotion-driven that disagreements and conflicts eventually come up. On top of that problem, lay on top some extremely rigorous learning material, job-hunting stresses, project deadlines, and self-improvement struggles and there's now some real (and unfortunate) potential for personal disagreement. So, the fact that some negative reviews of Turing exist shouldn't be surprising. It's almost expected. I would expect that at every school, company, or bootcamp, there is almost always some disagrement and conflict. But it shouldn't detract from the fact that Turing provides a long-term, relatively-cheap, and effective program for programming education with a strong and supportive community.
-With that said, Turing was one of the best learning and community experiences I've had since college. I learned a ton, had fun, made several friends, and was inspired by the students and staff around me. I think I finally found my people and my industry.
The personal impact Turing had on my life and career situation:
- Prior to Turing, I graduated from Amherst College, worked in HFT and finance, and had product experience at startups. Even with this decent headstart, I couldn't break into software and product roles at more successful and established companies because I lacked the technical expertise and experience. I was at a career standstill. After enrolling and finishing Turing, I was able to land a job at a company called Andela, a well-funded Spark Capital portfolio company, where I worked as a software engineer and programming teacher. The company teaches Nigerians how to code in order to eventually have them work as full-time software consultants. Even though I was living in Lagos, I was paid an American salary and worked under Obie Fernandez, author of the Rails Way. It was the adventure that I signed up for and the friends I made and the experience I had was eye-opening. After my contract expired (I signed a short-term 5 month contract with Andela since I knew I wanted to eventually return home to my friends and family in NYC), I obtained a job at Blue Apron as a software engineer in NYC. It's my best job to date. None of this would have been possible without Turing; they enabled me to solely focus on programming, rediscover my work ethic, and successfully pivot away from finance.
In regards to my review and other reviews on the site (both positive and negative)... I think the negative reviewer actually put it best: "The 'truth' is subjective...", so read and believe at your own risk. I prefer listening to the facts.
Our latest on Turing
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)...Continue Reading →
Madison was working in marketing for a startup, and after a lot of interactions with the tech team, she realized that she wanted to learn more about coding. She asked her Denver network about different coding schools, and everyone seemed to recommend Turing School. Madison is now six months into Turing School's seven-month Front End Engineering program, and is passionate about what she is learning. Madison tells us all about why she chose the Front End program, the “posses” where she learns about entrepreneurship alongside Back End students, and the app she is building to translate physical movements into sound.
What’s your pre-Turing story? What’s your education or career background before this?
I've taken a bit of an interesting path as far as curating my own education. I went to school in London for international business with a focus in marketing. I grew up in Colorado, and came back to Colorado for an internship at TRELORA while they were going through Techstars. At the end of my internship, TRELORA offered me a job I couldn’t pass up. I started working in their marketing department and then, as in most startups, took on a lot of different roles. I was working in marketing, operations, then slowly transitioned towards helping the tech team, and working closely with the CEO and CTO.
At that time, I was managing our website. I think what triggered me to join Turing was the frustrations I ran into with being limited by the tools I had at my disposal. I kept thinking, "I want to add this feature, but I don’t know how?" I ended up looking into a couple of code schools, and ended up at a school that I really trust.
You said that you were managing the TRELORA website. Did you try to teach yourself coding and learn on your own at first?
Yeah. What's hard to understand when you're outside of the development community is that a lot of the terms don't make sense. I joined the tech team for stand up every single day, and would hear a variety of terms, and had trouble differentiating what was what. I'd hear “bootstrap”, and had no idea what it was.
So did you feel like you needed something more structured to help you learn in a condensed way?
I wanted to immerse myself without judgment as much as possible, because those first steps are difficult. It’s hard to wrap your head around the concepts at first, because you have no prior knowledge to equate the new concepts to, but once you get there, you have a toolset and a base logic to be able to associate different topics with your base understanding. Initially, I needed to throw myself in 100%.
Did you decide that you wanted to actually switch careers, and is that why you decided to do a bootcamp?
My career is focused on entrepreneurship in the tech industry. At this point, I am gaining the skills to be able to transition into another segment of the startup world, but I wouldn’t say it is necessarily a full career change. I think it's making that career path even stronger and advancing my understanding of what a startup looks like, including the development aspect of it.
Did you look at other code schools? What was it that made you choose Turing?
I asked for guidance from prominent figures and mentors in the Denver community. I asked the program manager of Techstars, I asked other CTOs, I asked developers, so that I could get a better understanding what the community view was about Turing.
Turing has such a positive impact on the community and has trained such successful developers that everyone I spoke with had a positive opinion of Turing. Jeff Casimir the founder, and Steve Kinney, my instructor, were given rave reviews by people in the community. That was a large determining factor for me attending Turing School in Denver.
Another aspect that brought me to Turing was the fact that Turing is a nonprofit. That was really important to me. I had left a traditional education, and I really wanted to find a school that was rooted in truth. Being a nonprofit definitely assured me of that.
I'm interested in the fact that you chose to do the Front End Engineering program rather than the back end Turing program. What were your reasons for that?
There are a couple of reasons. One is, I'm a visual learner, and I tend to have an inclination towards design. I felt it would be a smoother transition into coding because of that. There's also a big focus on the consumer and users. Through the front end program you get the opportunity to refine your skills of designing for UI and UX, and think about how your users are going to interact with your product. The last consideration was, coming from a background in marketing, I wanted to strengthen the skills I had previously worked on.
Were there specific technologies or programming languages that you were interested in learning?
To be 100% honest, I didn't know what I was getting into. I had an idea of the end product I wanted to build, but I didn't know how to get there. So I focused on choosing the school wisely, while knowing what I wanted at the end. I didn't know exactly which technologies to use or what steps to take to get there. This program has provided me with the tangible steps to understand different frameworks along with coding fundamentals. It has been extremely effective for me.
Was the seven-month length of Turing a factor in your decision making?
Yes. The reason for that is there is so much that is involved in coding, so you need enough time to learn and practice the concepts .
They push you and are still able to explain the why things work in the ways that they do, which is really important to me. It's not helpful just to know how to implement a specific thing for one specific use case. I need to know why I'm using it, how it is affecting the program, and then implement it. I think a program that spans for a longer amount of time allows you to have more of the context to make you a better developer in the long run.
Did you ever at all consider going back to college and studying computer science?
Yeah, and I am still considering going back to school or continuing my degree while I'm working to learn more about computer science theory. Turing has sparked a new passion for me. A byproduct of learning to code is gaining a thought system for how to break down problems and the logic behind that process.
What is it that you like so much about coding?
I like that you get to create your own environment and define your own rules within that environment. In a lot of ways, it mirrors concepts of physics– the way that particles move, the way that they're manipulated by their environment, the amount of force that's applied to a single particle, and other concepts like that. As side projects, I've been getting into creative coding and creating art pieces with code.
What was the Turing application and interview process like?
I asked a million questions. I called one of the Turing instructors three or four times and asked him every question I could think of. It was a big jump away from a career I had been building and from a company that I loved. I wanted to make sure this was worthwhile and that I understood what I was jumping into. He answered all my questions and invited me to Try Turing Weekend. I attended a panel discussion with three current students and one graduate. That graduate was the determining factor for me. She explained what she got out of Turing, and I could see a lot of my own characteristics in her. At that point, I said, "I can do this."
I had the interview that day. My interviewer asked me questions, about my background, why I was interested, what I hoped to learn, and whether I was interested in the front end or back end program. At the end, they gave me a problem to solve, for which I had to explain why I took the steps that I did. They were interested in understanding how I was thinking, not just the solution. That was a good indicator of how they were going to teach me. After the interview, they told me I had been accepted. I started two weeks later.
I'm interested in your cohort at Turing. How many people are there and is your class diverse in terms of gender, race, age, life and career backgrounds?
There are 15 of us, and all have different professional backgrounds. We have at least 20% female, and all different ages. I think I'm the youngest out of everyone by at least five years. As far as backgrounds, we have athletes, people who were in IT prior to Turing, world travelers, and intriguing people who can apply their valuable life experiences to this context.
I've been really lucky to be able to learn from so many people with different life experiences. Turing brought together people from different contexts into a very even playing field, where we can not only pull from our past experiences, but also learn from one another.
What's the actual learning experience like at Turing School? Can you give me an example of a typical day?
It varies at the beginning of the module versus the end of the module. At the beginning of the module, it's instruction-heavy, where you have a couple of lectures a day. Towards the end of the module, there is more time to work on your projects .
On a typical day, there is always some sort of project, but we also get some solid instruction. Classes start at 9am. You have either one long class or two shorter instructional sessions on any subject matter. Right now we are learning about using Redux in a React application. We have an hour for lunch and during that time, a lot of us will meet in Posses, which are extracurricular groups, where you can deep dive into a subject matter you're interested in and gain a lot of new knowledge. It's awesome.
Then in the afternoon we work on our projects. There are always instructors available, and we can ask them any questions. We also work on our own to struggle through problems, which is a learning experience on its own.
Are the posses for both the Front End and the Back End students? What sort of things have you learned in the posses?
The posses are for both programs. That's why it's such a cool opportunity because people from the front end can figure out how to call an API that the students from the back-end programs created.
I am a leader of the Besos posse – our group is named after the prominent tech leader Jeff Bezos. We focus on entrepreneurship, and cover project management tools, user testing, and effective communication techniques. We talk to prominent entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences as well.
It’s exciting having students from both programs in the entrepreneurship posse because you can start to see what a business would look like - how key players would start to interact with each other to build a company structure. That's been really cool to be a part of .
How many instructors or mentors do you have for your cohort?
In the Front End program we have two awesome lead instructors per module.
What's your favorite project that you've worked on at Turing so far?
I would have to say there are two. One of the partner projects I liked the most was a chat application, where we interacted with Firebase. For me, understanding the basics of how data structures worked and being able to interact with such a powerful service made me realize that I could actually build a usable application. I got to showcase this application to Rise of The Rest and Steve Case when they came to visit Turing.
The personal project I'm working on now is what I’m most excited about. I've been very interested in creative coding, so I wanted to find a way to create a visceral experience. I’m building an app called Avant Garde Synesthesia which lets you manipulate sound through movement. It takes input from your webcam and tracks the color pink on your screen, and based on that it creates different sounds.
How does working on a partner project compare with working on a personal project?
The chat app was a partner project and we focused heavily on staying on task management. There's a process that Turing lays out for you, and we followed it very strictly. When we first started our project, they gave us a tool called DTR (define the relationship) which allows you to understand your partner’s schedule, what they want to work on, what they feel like their strengths are, and it helps push each other. Then we built our Waffle.io board. That organized approach allowed us to have clean code and minimized stress because we knew exactly where we were in our timeline.
That is the opposite of the personal solo project that we are doing now. There are positives and negatives to both. When you learn on your own, you learn concepts a lot more in-depth. You can take extra time to read an article, and really understand a whole topic, which I like. At the same time, you don't always have somebody to bounce ideas off of, which I think is really important in development. Another pro of working on your own is you can go with your own ideas. Getting the experience of both has been helpful.
I'm interested in how your previous experience and education has been helpful or had an impact on your learning process at Turing.
My experience working in a startup environment is not like anything else. It's high intensity, and I learned a wide range of skills very quickly. That's been very easily translated to a program like this, where you have to learn on your toes, struggle through problems, and figure out the best way through, with the resources that you have available. So a lot of those entrepreneurial problem-solving techniques have really benefited me.
The other thing is project management. At my old company, we used of lean practices and a Kanban board. I've been able to employ those practices, especially with Waffle.io and Trello, to be able to effectively plan out projects.
What has been the biggest challenge while you've been at Turing?
In the first module I struggled because I didn't know how things worked. I had a hard time understanding that some things were going to come later. I had a tendency to say, "I want to understand this right now," and, "I can't let this go until I figure it out." But when you practice enough, and talk to enough people, you start to build your own mental models around each subject that allow you to more closely relate to the topics you're learning.
Another piece to that is taking in what you're learning, and letting yourself process it. I respond well to auditory input so I'll listen to a lot of audiobooks or podcasts or conference talks around topics that we're learning about in class. That's been beneficial to overcome some of that stress from not being able to learn concepts right away.
What's your goal when you graduate? Are you going to start applying for jobs and what jobs do you think you're going to get? Or will you start your own business?
After Turing, I hope to become a Techstars associate – a front end development role – where I will get the opportunity to work closely with entrepreneurs.
After that, I hope to get more experience on a development team. Being able to pair, being able to learn from their expertise, and how to apply a lot of the skills that I've gotten here. And then long term, I want to start my own company, but I want to make sure that I'm as prepared as possible to do so.
What sort of guidance does Turing give about the job search?
They're giving us a lot. We work very closely with two career coaches who work with us on our LinkedIn profiles, our resumes, cold outreach, and giving us job searching strategies. I've met with them a couple of times already to talk about my goals and to look at different industries I'm interested in. They not only help us with tangible deliverables, they also provide connections through guest speakers and contacts as well.
What advice do you have for people considering doing a bootcamp?
First, when you're considering doing a bootcamp, I think it's an amazing skill to have to be able to build something and create something from nothing in a whole new context. Alongside that, there is magic when you realize that coding is not only math, it's logic, and engineering all put together. You're thinking about how to best solve a problem in the most efficient way possible. It's not only about learning the syntax, it's about thinking, "Okay. How am I going to engineer this problem or solve it in the best way?"
Secondly, whoever is reading this, you can do it. It's not something unattainable. That was one of my initial worries – that I was not naturally inclined to code, and didn't fit the bill. Being a woman, being so young, and not having any experience, I felt I didn't fit into the stereotype of what it took to be a coder. But that's just not true. There are a lot of different facets and different viewpoints needed to be able to solve a problem in a holistic way. I think it's important to say, “you don't have to fit exactly what the stereotype is to be successful”.
The last piece of advice– once you are in the program, just be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grasp topics at your own pace. Try and connect them to some of the real world experiences that you've had, and let it wash over you. It doesn't need to be an intense struggle to learn as fast as possible. You will learn it however you need to.
Jack Yeh was in the Marines, has a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale, and led global supply chain management teams for Walmart, Groupon, and the Chinese Postal System. Working at these companies Jack was intrigued at how software could optimize business processes. He chose to learn web development at Turing School in Denver. We sat down to learn how he took time to solidify his new coding skills, how being a veteran helped him succeed at coding, and how he has taken to his new role as a full stack developer at Welltok.
What is your pre-Turing story?
I have a bachelor’s degree in economics from Oberlin College and a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale. I am a former Marine and I spent 10 years in global supply chains. Six of those years were in Asia doing operations and advising in manufacturing, merchandising, sourcing, import-export, distribution and logistics.
In terms of programming, I hadn't done any programming prior to Turing School.
What drove you to transition from supply chain management to software development?
In my previous work I had been exposed to a lot of large corporations, including Walmart, Groupon, and the Chinese Post Office, so I got to see what they were doing with technology. At Walmart I managed the furniture import business to the US and Canada, so I got to know the logistics and business of their supply chain operations quite well. In the global supply chain space WM is considered the “800lb gorilla.” They’re a leader in how they use IT to reduce cost at every step in the supply chain. The company uses an in-house proprietary ERP (enterprise resource planning) system to coordinate the development, production, delivery and sales of tens of thousands of products from thousands of suppliers. When I was first introduced to it, I was underwhelmed by the lack of technology. It relied heavily on pulling data from the database, then storing that data in Excel spreadsheets. That's significant because these Excel spreadsheets were just snapshots of what the situation looked like at the time. The company would share these snapshots with their vendors, with internal departments, with their direct reports, and then make decisions based on that data days, even weeks later. Needless to say, it was pretty common for decision makers to be using different snapshots. I, still to this day, am astonished that they were able to make decisions with any certainty, let alone be leaders in the space.
I assumed going in it was their technologies that supported their success. But, in fact, it was their superior systems and processes that worked around the shortcomings of the technology that helped them to be successful. The honing of their systems and processes over decades allowed them to make the right business decisions. And clearly, with better technology there was an opportunity to arrive at business decisions faster and with more confidence.
What other previous experiences with technology made you want to transition into coding?
While at the Chinese Post Office, I headed up distribution and logistics for a special project to open retail stores in the countryside. Think 7-11 meets Tractor Supply Store. We were bringing modern amenities to rural farmers. At the Post Office I, again, found myself surprised at the lack of technology being used. For an organization of their size (36,000 postal locations across the country), they were using an ERP system that was decades old - think Fortran. They, too, also preferred Excel as the data communication/storage tool of choice, except it was bootlegged versions from the Windows 95 era.
At Groupon, however, my experience was completely different. It was my first experience at a company that was truly “technology first.” Given my experience in product sourcing, import-export and distribution/logistics, they asked me to help them layout the framework for what eventually became Groupon Goods. In this role I got to really understand how they leveraged technology, specifically software and the web, to ideate, test hypothesis and change direction quickly based on new information. Keep in mind, Groupon at that point had only been around 3 years. They didn’t have the decades of experience of Wal-mart or the centuries of experience of the Chinese Post Office. Groupon really didn’t have any institutional knowledge on how to serve their customers. It’s not even clear they knew who their customers were. So, they had to rely on technology exclusively to gather as much information on what worked and what didn’t. They moved lightning fast, often times wrong. But that data point was helpful too. The feedback mechanism they created with technology prevented them from spending a lot of time, money and resources pursuing strategies that didn’t yield results. It also allowed them to redirect resources to those opportunities that did work.
Seeing how software centered their business, how it allowed them to arrive at opportunities quickly and how that leverage scaled, that’s when I became hooked. That's when I knew I needed to learn to code. It’s important to note that my professional experience up to that point had alway been as a “successful administrator.” That’s to say I had become really good at optimizing existing well-established processes. I wasn’t doing anything truly new. Occasionally, I’d improve it but for the most part the changes were incremental. I saw software as a paradigm shift in business.
What made you do a coding bootcamp? How did you first hear about Turing School and what made them stand out?
After coming to the realization above, it took me two years to really make the shift. I left my job in Asia and I started working at a digital agency in Portland, Oregon in a non-technical role. During those two years I tried to teach myself to code. But I didn’t get very far. I started with Learning Python The Hard Way by Zed Shaw. But I couldn’t even get through the first chapter. I was already stuck. I didn’t have enough contextual knowledge. I had no idea how computers worked or what the terminal was, let alone how to use it. Even though I was at a digital agency I realized I wasn’t actually interacting with the code. I was too much on the periphery. The couple hours a week I spent “learning the hard way” was not enough.
It was right around this time that I knew if I really wanted to learn to code, it wasn’t going to be at the agency working full-time and learning part-time. I needed to be immersed in it. I also knew that six weeks or even three-months at a bootcamp was not going to be enough time for me. I needed at least six months. Serendipitously, I had just moved to Denver and had come across a Quora article on the best code schools in the country based on duration and geography. Coincidentally, the two longest programs happened to be in Denver, gSchool and Turing. I went attended a gSchool Open House that also happened to be the same night as the Denver.rb Meetup, a Ruby MeetUp in the area. Jeff Casimir spoke at Denver.rb and after doing a little bit of research, I found out that Jeff had been one of gSchool’s founders but left to start Turing. I talked to him, and he had a compelling story.
Jeff shared how his experience with gSchool prioritized investor business objectives over a quality education. Having come across the good-guy speech plenty of times in the corporate world, I was skeptical. Hearing that he has a Teach for America background helped. But it wasn’t until I learned that he started Turing as a non-profit that I was convinced of his commitment to students. Coming from a business background, that really resonated with me. I know how short-term profits can really impede long-term progress. My conversation with Jeff made it easy to want to learn coding at Turing.
Did you consider any other bootcamps?
I applied to gSchool and Turing. I applied to gSchool mostly because I wanted more data points. One data point was the Open House. They seemed reasonable enough. They had Galvanize, the co-working space behind them, making them very credible. With Turing, Jeff made enough of an impression that it was clear I’d apply there as well. Turns out Turing’s admissions process was much more polished and professional, so it made for an easier decision.
How did you finance your bootcamp tuition?
I financed it through Turing actually. The rate that they offered was comparable to my student loans from undergrad and grad school. I was originally concerned with doing financing with a bootcamp because I was afraid I was going to get gouged. I didn’t find that to be the case.
Tell me about your cohort at Turing School.
I'm probably an outlier in terms of some of the students at Turing. I’ve actually been a part of multiple cohorts. Turing has the option of repeating modules. If the instructors don’t feel like you've mastered the material enough, they may ask you to repeat the module. Or, if you yourself feel like you haven't mastered it, you can always choose to repeat the module. For me, I repeated several modules. I think most people finish in about seven months and I finished in a little over a year.
Age-wise the students skewed on the younger side which is a little bit surprising for me because in my previous work experiences I tended to be the youngest person by one or two decades. I was one of the older students, sometimes older than other students by a decade and a half. That was pretty humbling. You also had students who’ve had multiple careers. Geographically, about 15% were from Colorado. The size of cohorts ranged from 12-20 people. As a whole I was impressed that, despite the range of ages and years of professional experience, people were very sharp and eager to learn. Turing School did a really good job at selecting people who really wanted to be there. They’re all people I enjoyed going to school with and I am really looking forward to working with in the future.
How was the Turing School learning experience?
What's interesting about programming is it’s a reminder that everything is learnable, but everybody's learning style and preferences are different. For example, the way that Turing teaches wasn't the most effective for me. However, it was effective for the majority of people attending. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to learn and how to teach myself. It was a very invigorating experience because it reminded me that I can still learn new things. I can go into a completely different topic or field and in a short amount of time become a professional in that space. It's a very satisfying feeling that builds confidence.
Most of us would spend 6-7 days a week and anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day learning the material and working on projects. For me, coding did not come as easily as it did for some others. So, being immersed in it, where I couldn't take a break from it really helped. I think that is one of the strengths of an on-site, multi-month program.
Another strength of the program is that all four modules are happening at any given time. Since everyone goes through all four modules, we all get the chance to learn and teach. You're learning from your cohort, from alumni, from instructors, and from mentors. At the same time you’re also teaching and sharing what you’ve learned with the cohorts that come after you, which is incredibly satisfying. Jeff and the staff have built an incredible environment and culture of learning and sharing.
How did your experience in the Marines affect your experience studying at a coding bootcamp?
One of the things that helped me remain calm throughout Turing School is having been through the Marines. I learned as a Marine, that I was often reminded of at Turing, that you’ll constantly face things that you do not think you can do whether it be physically, mentally, or psychologically. After facing enough of these challenges, you learn that most of the time it's psychological. The things you think you can’t do, you actually can. You just don't know how to do them yet. The key word here is YET.
I’ll use climbing rope as an example. In the Marines you constantly have to climb rope and there are a lot of different techniques to climbing a rope. Some people use just the upper body and muscle their way up. Other people use their entire body and sort of slither their way up. Other people never make it. They give up. I’ve done all three and none of them is particularly fun. They’re all exhausting and at times humiliating, especially as climbing rope is never done in isolation or just once. It’s usually at the end of an obstacle course and combined with lack of sleep. It took me a while before I learned of a much easier technique to get up the rope. That is to only use your legs. It doesn’t sound possible, but let me tell you, I can get up a rope of any height, at any level of fatigue, at a near infinite number of times. And that's what Turing reminded me of.
In the beginning of learning a new topic you might have some idea how to get the code to work, sometimes you even get it to work. But most of the time it’s a struggle and there’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. You want to give up. But at some point you realize each new coding challenge is just another rope to climb. You will reach the top. There is a way. You may not know how yet. But if you want to get there you’ve got to keep yourself in the game long enough (and in the right headspace) to learn the proper technique.
Turing School now works with the VA to accept the GI Bill for students. We know that you weren't able to use that, but do you have any thoughts on this new initiative?
Do I think all coding bootcamps should offer financial aid for vets? Yes, absolutely. I think all education institutions should offer financial aid for vets. I think all educational institutions should offer financial aid for everybody.
Was there a favorite project that you built at Turing?
One was a really small side project that I built in a couple hours on a Saturday during module 3. A friend had written me a letter using morse code. Looking up each individual letter and code was tedious and boring. So I thought why not write a program that does it for me. I even used Test Driven Development to do it. It was really powerful to see that I could use what I had learned at Turing to solve a problem in my daily life. My second favorite project was when I figured out how to hack an online dating app to create a game for my married friends. Hacking into the app was fun and cool, but in both cases, what I enjoyed most was being able to create something that, just two months ago, I was unable to do. It's very empowering. You're no longer a consumer of the Internet, or a consumer of technology, you're now a creator of it. You can shape things and create your own experiences, as well as the experiences of others. To me that’s magic.
When did you finish at Turing School and how was the job search?
We were are all anxious because we recognized that school would end in less than two months, and that's not a lot of time to reach out to companies, apply to them, interview, get an offer, and accept. We also recognized that, especially with people who wanted to stay in Denver, Denver is a pretty saturated market for junior developers. Add on top of that, we knew that every seven weeks a new batch of Turing students would be graduating. So we were all a bit anxious, but I think we did a good job of helping each other.
I found my job through Turing. Jeff makes an effort to put students in touch with different companies to see if they might be a good fit. He connected me with a company here in Denver the last week of school. I went through a couple of interviews. They liked me and within a week I got an offer. It took took a week to negotiate and two weeks later I started as a full stack developer at Welltok, a healthcare tech company.
Tell me about your first few months as a full stack developer. How was the initial learning period with a new team and a new career?
It was nerve wracking. I’ve always found new professional environments a bit intimidating. Trying to navigate the context of social situations, as well as understanding your standing within the company is never easy when you’re new. You have to find the value that you will provide and find it quickly. We all want to be great at what we do. I know I wanted to prove myself and earn the respect of my bosses and peers.
Moving to a new industry where you’re using new tools makes the experience that much more daunting. For me, there was definitely some anxiety. I had spent 10 years learning my craft in the global supply chain space and that success had become part of my identity. So, there has been this ongoing adjustment of feeling like I'm not terrible. I am getting better every day. But I am nowhere near as competent as I was at my last job. To see that disparity in yourself is hard.
How are you feeling now that it’s been several months on the job?
When I started with the company, the team I joined had only just formed. There were 3 developers, including me. Those first couple of months were pretty challenging because the company was experimenting with taking on junior developers and so, it didn’t have a formal process for mentoring junior developers. I spent a lot of time figuring out stuff on my own. It’s only been in the last three months that the team has finally solidified, reaching 10 developers. I still spend a lot of time figuring stuff out on my own, but now I have 7 additional developers that I can reach out to. They are experienced and have been incredibly helpful.
Despite all that you learn at Turing, there is still so much more you don’t know. So, there were definitely feelings of, "Am I learning fast enough? Am I learning enough? How can I get better?" And now I would say those feelings are still there, but it’s not as loud. I'm able to better identify the hard part of a problem, ask better questions to fill the gaps in my knowledge, and leverage the experience of the other developers on the team.
Did you learn everything you needed to know for your current role at Turing?
I don't think you ever learn everything you need to know, and I don't think you could ever learn everything you need to learn from school. This is true in any space, but especially in tech because it evolves so quickly. You constantly need to be learning. You need to be aware of new languages, techniques, and services that are available to see if they're a fit for the company, your skill set, and your interests. You get inundated with information, so developing intuition is critical to being successful. You start to develop it at school, but you can only hone it through being involved, being responsible for deliverables and screwing up.
Do you find yourself still involved with Turing School? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
I think the strongest asset that Turing has is its community. These are relationships that will continue to be important for me not just professionally, but also personally throughout my life. Jeff and the team do a really good job with providing an experience that really bonds you – in a good way.
I'm not involved in the day-to-day things that happen at Turing, but I am involved with Turing alumni events. I still keep in touch with a bunch of the instructors and my peers. I recently organized a beer-in-hand kickball team that plays in a league here in Denver. So I get to see about 15 to 20 Turing people once a week through that.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change into tech, and people thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?
Do it. I completely endorse it. As we incorporate more and more technology into our lives, I think knowing how to program will become just as important as knowing how to add and subtract. Sure, you can be successful professionally without it, but your options will be limited. I would also caveat that programming is hard. It doesn’t come naturally to everybody. People also come at it with varying levels of experience. So, it’s easy to observe the success someone else has and measure yourself against it. Don’t do that. Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.
There's not a lot of context to understand who fits in where. So, it's very natural to feel like you need to know where you stand, how good you are, and if you’re doing well or not. The easiest way to do that is to look to the people around you and compare yourself to them. It's even easier to get down on yourself if you don’t feel like you’re measuring up. But that’s a perception problem.
Be kind to yourself. You’re doing something new and that takes time to be good at, to feel good at. Turing is only seven months long, but your coding path could span decades. Don’t judge yourself too early. Your path in programming is not going to be someone else's path. Everybody has their own path and own trajectories. Be kind to yourself – everybody gets it at different times. Some people are really good and don't have to put in much effort. Some people have to put in a lot of effort. If you're one of those people that has to put in a lot of effort, that's okay. It might have taken you a little bit longer, maybe a month longer. But what’s a month, or even a year, when the path is decades long. Most importantly, keep in mind why you decided to attend a code school. If you’ve done it right, you’ve learned to program. Regardless of how long it took you, seven months or two years, no one can take that away from you.
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?Continue Reading →
Welcome to the September 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. Of course, we cover our 2016 Outcomes and Demographics Report (we spent a ton of time on this one and hope everyone gets a chance to read it)! Other trends include growth of the industry, increasing diversity in tech through bootcamps, plus news about successful bootcamp alumni, and new schools and campuses. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Want to know what employers really think about hiring bootcamp grads? We sat down with Chris, Engineering Manager at Granicus, a software development firm for government agencies, to see why he loves to hire Turing School grads. With a nontraditional developer background himself (he studied political science), he dives into the skills required for his new hires. Find out why he believes that Turing graduates are the best of the best in Denver.
Tell us about Granicus and your role there.
I’m the Engineering Manager at Granicus, where we write software for governments. Because we have more than 17 different products and 200 code repositories – from media streaming to legislative agenda management – our dev teams work in a lot of different technology stacks. At Granicus, we open job requirements for a specific skill, but if you're hired here, we're hiring you because you are smart enough to work on several projects.
How large is the technical team at Granicus?
Between dev and QA, we have a 20 to 30 person team. We run five sprint teams organized around major product initiatives; the smallest sprint team is three people and the largest sprint team is seven people.
How many Turing School graduates have you hired?
We've hired three Turing grads. I actually hired one grad to replace myself after going through multiple interviews with graduates of many different code schools. We hired Alex Tideman to take my spot; he was brilliant and within two months I could turn literally everything over to him. Then I hired Matt Stjernholm and Steve Olson, who both started in April.
What are those Turing students working on now at Granicus?
They work on one of our flagship applications, a legislative agenda management project called Peak. Peak was built ground up in React and Redux on the front end; because it’s service-oriented, it actually consumes six services on the backend. As a first job, that's a lot of information to learn.
How did you get involved with Turing as an employer?
I run the ReactJS meetup in Denver, and was an organizer for the Denver Tech Center Ruby group. At one of my meetups, I met someone who was just starting out in the first Turing cohort. I had been helping him with his homework assignments, so I started getting familiar with the Turing curriculum. I could see how much that student was growing, so I started interviewing their candidates – they were just head and shoulders above all the other bootcamp grads in Denver.
That's awesome. Are there a lot of Turing students in those meetup groups?
Are you hiring for junior developer roles from Turing?
Yes; internally at Granicus, we don't believe in labels (for example, I changed my title to Jedi Knight). Our engineers are not “senior” or “junior.” The Turing grads I’ve interviewed are “junior” in terms of their experience, but not in terms of their coding abilities, which is an interesting dilemma.
When we were hiring to backfill my role, I was looking for a more senior level engineer, but once I started interviewing Turing candidates, I said, “Nevermind! I’d rather hire one of these candidates who I can mold and teach our best practices.”
When I had the resources to hire two more engineers, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. I interviewed people from other code schools, but I also interviewed six grads from Turing, and there was no comparison.
How do you typically hire for developer roles at Granicus?
We cast a wide net, and every Granicus applicant – from developers to customer care – must pass an analytical reasoning and spatial thinking test. If we get 100 applicants, we expect 15-20 to pass that first filter. However, when I’m hiring, I’ll ask Turing to send the job posting to their students, and all of the Turing applicants pass the test.
How do Turing students perform in the technical interview?
After passing that analytical reasoning test, I’ll glance at their resumes (those are less of a tool for me now), and do a phone screen. Then, I prefer to bring them in and talk about what they’ve built. I want to know about problems that have been difficult (or impossible) to solve, and how they’ve gone about finding a solution.
Once we get to the technical interview, I give them a challenge in the language that they’re most comfortable with. We want to find out if they have a knowledge gap, so that if we hire them we have the space to build on. Then, we do a group challenge with me and two other developers (which also helps with culture fit).
Because of the nature of coding bootcamps, Turing applicants are ready to pull up their code and talk about recent projects. I ask them how they contributed to group projects, and to defend choices they made during collaboration. Occasionally, I'll find a brilliant person out of a 12-week bootcamp, but the students who have been coding non-stop for seven months at Turing have so much more training.
A lot of Turing (and coding bootcamp grads in general) don’t have a traditional CS degree. Has that been an issue or concern for you?
I have a degree in political science, and I'm an extremely effective developer. Traditional backgrounds are not something we care about at Granicus. The founders of Granicus do not believe that a degree makes an engineer.
This is reminding me that I need to actually schedule several more talks at Turing, as I find it helps because the students already have a feel for my frankness and honesty. In some of those talks, I've even given them some of our interview questions. I don't care if you can recite an algorithm; I’d rather hear them narrate their thought process, which is tough.
How do you ensure that these new hires are continuing to learn in their first few months at Granicus?
We don’t assign mentors, but mentorship forms naturally. Each team has senior-level developers and engineers who know our architecture. When a new developer joins that team, they have open access. If you want to pair 100% of the time for the first month, pair 100% of the time. Do what's going to work for you, but be ambitious about your learning choices. Learn the way that makes sense to you. If you need a book or a subscription, expense it.
This is broader than mentoring, because everybody has this imposter syndrome. Even I still have imposter syndrome! I've only been doing this for five years, and I meet somebody who's brilliant, and I feel like an idiot. The hurdle for somebody in this role is that you have to know how to find the answer when you know nothing. Turing is teaching their students how to find that answer. Maybe that’s via Google or textbook material or another developer or whatever, but they develop the ability to know where to go for that answer.
Granicus actually sounds like a great first job for a coding bootcamp grad!
Yeah, it really is. Turing has really hard programs, and they expect a lot out of their grads. I usually catch them right before they're about to graduate from Turing and I give them the option to start working immediately; but they almost always opt to graduate from Turing, because they've been through this grueling process and they want to finish.
Do you pay a referral fee to Turing when you hire their developers?
No, but I've told them that they need to start charging for it! At first, our HR department wasn't necessarily sold, but they're seeing the results in the quality of candidates.
What's the biggest shortcoming of a Turing student? Is there anything that a bootcamp student lacks?
They lack the same thing that any other junior-level engineer does, which is production experience. There’s a saying that "a programmer writes code, a good programmer deletes code, and a great programmer prevents code from being written," which is the "code first" mentality. That is a very beginner trait, and it’s the same problem you may have with a beginner woodworker, who turns on the lathe, starts carving, and sees what he comes up with rather than planning out a design. Most programmers suffer from that.
If I could do one thing over again, I would separate the new developers who were in the same cohort at Turing, because they have a lot of trust in each other. I want to push those students to grow individually and get more exposure to other people’s code.
Do you have a feedback loop with Turing? Are you able to influence their curriculum if one of your new hires is rusty in a certain technology?
I'm sure that I could- Jorge, Jeff and Steve Kinney would be open to that feedback. I'll message the Turing team occasionally to tell them how their grads are doing, and it’s clear that they really care.
The strength of the community at Turing is obvious- grads are going back to events at Turing as alumni and supporting each other, mentoring, and showing current students what they’re experiencing in the workplace and what they can expect to run into. I like that about them.
What's your advice to other employers who are considering hiring from a bootcamp or from Turing School? How can they navigate the coding bootcamp hiring process?
My advice to other employers hiring from Turing is, stay away – that’s my secret stash! Just kidding. (One of our sister companies ended up hiring one of the candidates that I was looking at from Turing.)
Look at your team's needs and what resources you can offer bootcamp grads. I was listening in on a conversation between some of our senior developers at lunch, and they were saying that if you’ve been accepted into Turing, you've actually passed a level of filtering that makes you acceptable for our organization. We can’t say that about other sources of talent, which is interesting.
Also, everyone you interview from a code school is going to have a strong interest in tech and coding, because they just sacrificed a huge amount of money and time to switch their careers. They have made a commitment, and taken a risk beyond what a college student may have taken. You can also expect Turing grads to have job experience. For example, Alex was a project manager at Target, and was part of the Target Canada launch, so he was familiar with the software development cycle and what it really means to build a product.
Turing has demonstrated to me that they’re not just teaching coding concepts; they're teaching learning concepts, and that is drastically different. To me, that’s more valuable. I have a nontraditional background and I find that the people who know how to learn will naturally rise. If you're an employer, create an environment where employees can rise, and empower them to make decisions and mistakes.
My final advice is that technology really is immaterial to success. Just because they're graduating from Turing as Rails developers, doesn't mean that these applicants are not interested in your technology stack. A competent developer can prove themselves quickly.
In this series, we’re spotlighting coding bootcamps that have released Outcomes Reports. This week, we talk with Turing School, a Denver coding bootcamp with 7-month immersives in Front-End Engineering and Back-End Engineering. Jorge Tellez from Turing chats candidly with us about views on job placement statistics, why they opened their raw data up to future students, and how they get 92.5% of Turing graduates employed as full-time software developers. Read the full Turing Outcomes Report here.
Tell us your role at Turing and how you've been involved in the push towards Turing’s Outcomes Report?
I'm the Director of Growth & Operations at Turing School, which means I'm in charge of all the business functions and growth opportunities at Turing. I’ve been at Turing since it was Jeff and I in a basement; now we’ll be reaching 180 students by the end of the year between our two immersive programs.
How has Turing changed over the last two years in terms of outcomes?
Turing is a non-profit organization, which means that we already report publically on a lot of metrics in our public filings. We felt that, in order to tell the full story, we needed to tell everyone how we're doing on outcomes as well. There was also an internal pressure because we wanted to see whether we were fulfilling the promise that we were making to students.
For example, in the past, we had a 95% placement rate within 90 days of graduation. Because the industry has transformed itself, students are now taking a little bit longer to get jobs, it’s only right to tell everyone our real, updated numbers. A lot of coding bootcamps are pursuing this holy grail of 90% placement in 90 days at $90K starting salaries. We don’t think those are accurate placement statistics, and we wanted to force ourselves to be super honest. Our average starting salary is ~$75,000
How do you think schools like Hack Reactor are getting $104,000 salaries?
I think it has to do with their market. $75,000 in Denver is the equivalent of over $100K in San Francisco. Students can understand those multipliers if they have the data available.
Sure, and why is it important now for coding bootcamps to start releasing outcomes data?
We've always thought about transparency, especially once we were part of NESTA (the New Economy Skills Training Association which has now disbanded). At that NESTA meeting, all of the schools signed a letter of intention to release their placement numbers. Within the first year, Flatiron School released a very comprehensive report which we liked, and we saw that we needed to support this effort and force the industry to become more transparent.
This is especially important right now, with for-profit colleges entering this space. A lot of students are putting in their savings, time, and sacrificing a lot for their families, to attend Turing, and if schools are not fulfilling this promise, then they shouldn't be in this industry.
Being in Colorado and working with the Department of Private Occupational Schools, did you have to release outcomes data in order to be approved by that regulatory agency?
Yes and no. Regulatory bodies are still trying to figure out what to do with coding bootcamps. For example, the Department of Private Occupational Schools reviews our program, but at the same time, they review nail polishing programs and plumbing programs. They regulate a varied set of schools with different outcomes, but they ask the same questions. There is no standard that is particular to coding bootcamps, and I do think that will come at some point.
Is there something unique about coding bootcamps that is making this a difficult challenge right now?
There are some challenges in terms of collecting the data because it's like building the bridge as you walk on it. We want to make sure that the indicators of success make sense and that the data being reported by the students is accurate. One of the challenges, for example, is defining what constitutes a software developer. Job descriptions are all over the place- you see job titles for “Fullstack Developers,” “Software Engineers,” “Web Application Developers,” even “Ninjas.” Some data sanitization is necessary.
But I think that overall, if a coding bootcamp is doing what they say they’re doing, then it should be easy to report on your outcomes. The problem or the moral dilemma occurs when what you're saying is not backed by data and facts, and you're trying to hide it somehow.
I’m curious what does count as a software developer for Turing? Do you count QA Engineers as a success, for example?
“Software Developer” has a very clear definition; it means that on a daily basis, your work involves programming and adding features to software.
There are other categories (which are great jobs) that are not software developers, such as technical marketers, etc. There’s nothing bad about those different outcomes. If you go to a coding bootamp because you want to be a product manager or a growth hacker, that's perfectly valid. What I don't like is programs telling students that if they come to their bootcamp, they’re going to become a software developer, and then not getting graduates jobs as developers.
At Turing, we tell students that we’ll train them to become a professional software developer in seven months. So then our success should be measured against that promise.
In Turing's outcomes report, do you ever exclude students from your calculations, and if so what's the threshold for excluding students?
Actually, we don't exclude anyone. We base our outcomes on total students enrolled, which means people who start on the first day of school. A lot of schools say, “if someone doesn't want a job, or drops out in the first week, then we’ll exclude that person.” We base our report on the number of students in the classroom on Day 1.
We’re aiming for transparency, so we want readers to see the full picture and make their own assumptions about how Turing is doing.
But in Turing's outcomes report, you only count students who actually graduate, right?
Yes. For example, 136 students enrolled in 2015, and then 101 students actually graduated. We are very open with the reasons that people didn’t graduate. And we also make demographics data available about students who didn’t graduate.
We want to be even more transparent- we want to provide our demographic data in further detail. Right now, a lot of our outcomes numbers are really focused on Graduates, but we’re we're really interested to start expanding and show that data for enrollees, etc.
How important does Turing find auditing in the outcomes reporting? At first, the report was not audited?
Yeah. Eventually, Skill Funds did an independent review of our report.
Do you think that having Skills Fund look at your outcomes data changes the validity of it?
I think it adds another layer of security to the data. I don't think it's the most important part of the process; ultimately the raw data should be available. We allow readers to access a CSV of our data, which means that 150 million people can check your data and call you out on it. That's even more powerful than having three guys looking over it. However, auditing is the ultimate test, because it means that a third-party saw your data and said it’s accurate.
Auditing also puts pressure on the school, knowing that a third party will look at the data.
Speaking of Skills Fund, do you see Turing adopting a full industry-wide outcomes methodology any time soon?
We participated in some of the Skills Fund meetings, and I think they're doing it for the right reasons, and we had really good relationship with them. But there were organizations at the meetings that weren’t there for the right reasons, and they have loud voices. There are schools with a lot of interest in preventing their real data from coming out. When we saw that the conversation was being moved away from student’s best interest, which was something we’d agreed upon at the beginning of our meeting, we decided to step out of the process. We’ll let the group fill in some of the missing pieces and then decide if it’s useful and truthful for our students.
Since that meeting, we’ve been talking with a lot of bootcamps that are aligned with us in terms of putting students first. We're working on putting together another methodology and will hopefully announce it soon.
Why should potential students be concerned with job placement outcomes to begin with?
Bootcampers are making a huge investment. When you buy a house, you should know if the foundation is solid, if the price is correct, etc. If you're investing in the next 30 years of your professional career, I think you have the right to know what that investment will look like – salary, success, employment opportunities, and ROI.
The only way you can make those decisions is by looking at the raw data. I always tell students that if you don't see a school’s data, ask for it; and if they are not willing to give it to you, then run away as fast as possible. Because that means that either the school doesn’t have the data to support their claims, or that they don't care, or that they have the data but don't want to share it with you. Just have those conversations.
Ultimately, you should also talk to graduates of that program. You need to be able to contact them at random. At Turing, we have a graduate who works at Pinterest, and of course we can tell potential students to go talk to him! But you should also be able to reach out to grads on LinkedIn, at Meetups etc.
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Steve Kinney spent seven years as a high school and middle school teacher in NYC before moving to Denver, CO to teach web development at Turing School of Software and Design. Steve is now the program director for Turing’s new Front-End Engineering program which launches in June 2016. We spoke to Steve about how he learned to code, the new Front-End Engineering curriculum, and how different the new program is from Turing’s Web Application Development program.
Tell us about your background before you started at Turing in Denver.
My whole career has been in teaching. I have a Master’s in Special Education and started out as a special education teacher in New York City. Towards the end of my teaching career, I was a technology coordinator and started teaching web development, which became more of a full-time job.
I was wondering what your Computer Science background is like. How did you learn to code?
I’m self-taught. When I started teaching in 2006, data collection on student performance involved taking hand-written notes, which was difficult to process. Even once we switched to spreadsheets, processing that data was still very clunky and took teachers a long time.
At that point I didn’t know how to program, but I knew we were spending too much time on this, and that there must be a better way. I had heard of relational databases, and decided to teach myself how to write a program to do all the data crunching for us. It worked, and that’s how the slow transition from social education teacher to web development teacher began. I slowly built more programs for the school, taught coding classes and built up my skills over about five years.
How did you become aware of the coding bootcamp model and the type of teaching at Turing?
By 2012, I’d been learning Ruby and doing data crunching for a few years. I thought about going to a bootcamp myself, but my teaching (and new fatherhood) schedule made that impossible at the time. I actually took a free code school course on JQuery taught by Turing bootcamp founder Jeff Casimir. I really enjoyed it and discovered he was a former DC math teacher. I followed Jeff’s career as he started Hungry Academy.
Jeff and I got invited by mutual acquaintances to a discussion on programmers with teaching experience. We reconnected and when he offered me a job at Turing, I broke my lease, quit my job and moved my entire family to Denver.
You started out teaching the Web Application Development course and now you’re working on the Front-End Engineering program. How did that transition work?
What parts of the Web Application Development program do you teach?
Why did Turing launch a Front-End Engineering program?
Over the last year and a half, the role of the front end engineer has almost exploded. And with that, the demand for jobs and employers’ demands for front end developers has also exploded.
Our school was always called The Turing School of Software and Design and that design piece is not really prevalent in the existing program. Part of our goal for the Front-End Engineering program is to have graduates become Front End Engineers, but with an understanding of design, user experience, and UI concepts as well.
We did a bunch of research about the largest demand and interested employers. Once we crunched all the numbers, it was obvious that the next step for us would be front-end engineering. We get to build that curriculum from the ground up and rethink everything along the way.
Tell us about how you’re building the Front-End Engineering curriculum?
Step One is to do a whole bunch of research, take copious notes and begin to distil those notes down. Step Two is to put something a curriculum together and get it approved by the state of Colorado. We build out the entire curriculum and then have professionals from the field review it and sanity-check it.
We had a bunch of companies like Universal Mind in Denver and IBM look over the curriculum. I think the most humbling thing for me was that more than one review said, “I wish I could take this program.”
By the end of the program, students will be able to build great websites and user interfaces in the browser but they’ll also be able to build desktop and mobile applications as well, which I think is one of the most exciting parts. For any platform out there, they’ll be able to hit the ground running and build really great applications that not only look good but also feel good to use.
Can you give us a brief overview of the technologies you’re going to be teaching?
We have four modules:
- Module 3: more advanced React, models for managing data, Flux, Redux, and Ember.
- Module 4: “web technologies outside of the browser” including Phonegap and Cordova to build mobile web apps which use the camera and geolocation as well as desktop apps with Electron and React Native.
How different will the two Turing immersives be? Will graduates of each program get different types of jobs?
There’s definitely an intentional overlap between these two programs because we think our graduates should have a broad set of skills, with specialization in one. I think there will be a little bit of self selection. But the programs are different – during the Web Application Immersive, students have exposure to front end frameworks for two weeks at the most.
We do our best to help prepare graduates for the jobs they’ll be happiest in. I think over time, those students who would be happiest as front end engineers will be in the Front-End Engineering program. I do see them taking different jobs and some of that will be set by interest, because all graduates come out with a versatile skill set in a number of different frameworks.
You mentioned that there would be some overlap. Will there be instructor overlap as well between the two programs?
I’m planning on only teaching the Front-End Engineering program. Our main goal is to get the program started and running smoothly. Long term, I would like to figure out how to have the two programs collaborate, with a team from one program focusing on the front end and a team from another program focusing on the back end and the API. I think that’s an ultimate goal.
Both immersives will be together for all the community events but students will be onboarded and taught separately.
What’s your own personal teaching style? What can your Front End Engineering students expect?
Our approach at Turing is to have multiple projects and topics going on at any point so if you’re burning out on one, you can switch to another. There’s always a mix of direct instruction, a project you’re working on in teams or on your own, as well as smaller assignments focused on a given skill.
On the instructional level, I tend to be a morning person so I give lectures in the morning. We do a lot of code review, and one of the things we’ve been looking at is pulling in UX designers and graphic designers to come in for design and UX review of projects. I want to have a lot of professional involvement from the outside so students get real world experience.
How are you going to be assessing students’ progress throughout the course?
Assessment will be similar to the Web Application program. At the end of each module there is an assessment that takes slightly different forms throughout the program. For the first few modules you sit down with an instructor and pair on a project and show how you would approach a problem and solve it.
Students are working on small individual projects as well as larger team projects. During every module, students put together a portfolio and do a presentation of everything they have achieved. Every quarter of the program we evaluate students to understand if they are ready to move on, or whether it would be best to review the previous module before moving on to the next one.
How do you advise potential students who are not sure which program to take?
It really comes down to interest. One of the metaphors we use is building a car. Do you want to start from the engine then work outwards? If so, then the back end program is probably for you. But if you want to focus on all the controls and modify how the car performs, then the Front-End Engineering program is probably more for you.
It’s really interesting with our current students because they get exposure to both and they almost always click with either front or back end. It’s very rarely that we have a student who is indifferent.
To be honest, one of the reasons students join Turing is to find a job that pays really well. But they’re also looking for a job that they’re really passionate about that they enjoy doing every day. So I think it’s better to steer students towards what they’re more passionate about doing, rather than focusing on their previous experience.
Is there anything else that you think our readers should know about the Front-End Engineering program?
If we think you have what it takes to be a really good software engineer, there’s no prior experience necessary. Some of our most successful students have been former teachers or bakers with no programming experience. We’ve seen very little correlation between previous experience and success.
Musician, electrical engineer, and now software developer Chris Cenatiempo has landed his dream job in Hawaii after graduating from Turing School in Denver, CO. He became interested in coding as an integrity engineer working alongside developers. When he tried it himself, he quickly became hooked and realized he wanted to be coding full time. He enrolled in Turing’s Full Stack Development program and says it was “the coolest experience” of his life. Chris tells us about why he chose Turing, his favorite projects, and how he landed that job in Hawaii (+ photos).
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What is your educational background and last career path?
Before Turing I went to Wichita State University for electrical engineering and mathematics, and before that I was performing and teaching music. After college I got a job as an integrity engineer at a pipeline company. I kind of knew going into it that it wasn’t for me, but I worked there for a couple of years while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Then my friend, who was a lead developer at the time for Quick Left, told me about Turing and suggested I apply. I applied and luckily got in.
Did you have any experience or prior knowledge of coding?
I’d had an interest in coding because of my engineering background. There is some programming involved in engineering – writing little scripts to run basic algorithms or using matlab and C++. While I was an integrity engineer, I worked with a developer to build an in-house application for us to import and analyze data from pipelines in the field. I worked with him to put together user stories, and ended up doing front end testing of the app for him.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? Could you have continued to learn on your own?
I did learn on my own, mainly with Codecademy. I would try to do the problems without looking at the answers, then realize hours had hours had gone by and I was still enjoying it. So I knew that this career would be interesting.
However, it is tough to figure out programming by yourself because there are so many paths you can go down. It’s almost impossible to figure out how to organize your own curriculum, and there’s no guide or book to tell you how things should be done so I figured a coding bootcamp would be a better way to start.
Did you look at other coding bootcamps or just Turing?
My friend mentioned Galvanize as well as Turing, so I applied to both. But I was always more interested in Turing – I had heard a lot of good things about founder Jeff Casimir and the program itself. I’d heard students were better prepared compared to other bootcamps, and I knew Jeff had also started gSchool.
How important was the longer length of Turing’s program?
It was pretty important because I feel like with anything shorter than 7 months, you’re really not going to get enough out of it. During those seven months, we learned both back end and front end languages, and at my job right now I’m working in a mix of both. I’m not just stuck to Rails even though I’m technically a Rails developer.
Did you think about doing a four-year computer science degree?
Kind of; I’m still actually planning on going back to college, but I’m more interested in mathematics for college than programming. I feel like programming is something I can learn from the community more than anything. I didn’t want to go back to college for coding because I felt like four years was too long to wait to get into this business.
How did you pay for Turing? Did you use a financing partner? Did you get a scholarship?
I used financing. Turing had some options to finance through a lending partner (there were two of them at the time). I used Climb Credit.
What was your cohort like? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
There were about 27 people at the beginning, and I graduated with about 15. We had four or five women, so it was mostly guys. My class wasn’t very diverse, but classes coming in afterwards were more diverse. The backgrounds were all over the board. We had one guy who was a high school teacher who also did physics in college. There was another guy who lived in the same apartment building as me, who did environmental engineering. And some people had previous programming experience – one guy who worked for GoDaddy. We had a woman who was a psychologist, then we had people who just didn’t even have a professional background, who were just coming in and trying to learn. There was a bit of an age range – the youngest student was 20, and the oldest was mid-40s. The average age though was mid-20s, early 30s.
What was the learning experience like at Turing?
What was the pace like over the seven months?
For the most part it was busy all the time – it depended on which module we were on. Sometimes we had projects that were two weeks long so we would work through the weekends. In the last module, we took weekends off because we were job hunting as well, so they wanted to give us enough time to do that too.
What was it like being in such an intensive program for seven months? How did you avoid burnout?
Taking long breaks between coding was important. I don’t really have any strategies or methods for not burning out; I just kept going. Their main suggestion was getting sleep which I didn’t always do. I guess I avoided getting burned out by making friends at the school and hanging out, doing something other than coding.
What was your favorite project that you created?
Another favorite was a project for a company outside of Turing. It was my personal project which I worked on with a partner. We built an API interface with Angular for a company to help their users analyze data information. We were the first cohort to work with outside companies for our projects. Turing set it up so about eight people from our cohort could work with this company. It was definitely a great learning experience.
What are you up to after Turing?
I’m a Rails developer here in Kailua, Hawaii for a company called RealGeeks. We build real estate apps for agents which allows them to build their own website. The part I work on is a backend for agents to analyze data so they get leads on who might be interested in buying or selling a home. We take the data and display contact information so the agents can contact these people and show them around properties. Then we add other API data like Zillow, which they can integrate with their website to see who is looking at what.
Are you using the stack/programming language you learned at Turing or a new one?
How did you find the job?
I found it through a friend at Turing who was a cohort ahead of me. She was offered the job herself and didn’t want to take it, so I told her I was interested and she hooked me up. I applied and did the interview process and got the job. It was the first job I applied to – I got lucky on my first hit. I didn’t have to do a bunch of interviews and applications.
What was the interview/application process like at RealGeek?
The application process consisted of three interviews. I was applying to jobs while I was going to school right before Christmas break. The first interview was a culture fit see how I would fit in with the company, then they gave me a coding challenge with certain tasks and I had to build a mini Rails application. In the second interview, I pair-programmed with my supervisor on some other features for the Rails app. The third interview was with the CTO. Then they offered me the job and I started in February 2016.
What’s it like working as a web developer in Hawaii? How is it different from living in Denver?
It’s pretty awesome. I cannot complain. There’s not a huge tech scene out here, although I did meet a developer the other day at Starbucks! I’m living in a house right on the beach, three miles from work, so I just bike into work every day. In the weekends I’m doing a lot of hiking and swimming, and I joined a competitive paddling club. I like how I can just walk out my door and there’s a hike right there, whereas in Denver I’d have to drive 30 minutes to get to a hike. I’ve got a couple hiking buddies, and I think we’re also going to do some ocean kayaking to some islands in front of my place about a mile out.
What’s your schedule like?
It’s pretty standard 9 am to 5 pm. They’re pretty lax about when you come in – I usually come in between 8 am and 9 am. It’s a pretty typical dev environment and there are four of us on my team. We’re called the Lead Manager team which is basically the Rails team.
Did you feel like Turing prepared you well for your first job as a developer?
Yeah I think so. There is still a lot to learn obviously, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed. I was getting around in the code base yesterday and building some stuff, and I felt comfortable, but there is definitely a lot I don’t understand.
What’s been the biggest challenge at your new job?
Just trying to understand the code base because it’s so huge. I’m used to building small little applications from the ground up, but this is having to learn other people’s code and figuring out what’s going on. But Turing definitely helped with some of the tools they gave us, like Pry. Pry allows you to pause the code and see what your outputs are in the middle of the code. I’ve done a lot of pairing, and a lot of setup for this application. I’ve experienced all sorts of different things within our framework.
How are you feeling about reaching your goals of becoming a software developer?
It was the best thing I’ve ever done. And my goal was also to move somewhere new. I’d always wanted to live near a nice ocean. I wasn’t really planning on Hawaii but I got pretty lucky.
What advice do you have for people making a career change after bootcamp?
I’d say do it, but pick the right coding bootcamp for you. I know there are a lot out there, there are even some popping up now in my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. I got lucky because I had people who knew which places to go and what to apply to. My advice is to really make connections while you’re at a coding bootcamp because it’s hard to go solo. The best thing you can do is talk to people, find out what job opportunities are out there, and learn at the same time. Connections are one of the most important parts of getting your first developer job.
Anything else to add about your experience at Turing?
It was a great experience and I’m definitely glad I did it. It was the coolest experience of my life. I’m still in touch with people from my cohort. I have a couple of friends who are going to come out here to visit in September. It went by too fast though, and there are days where I wish I could go back to school, talk to people, and write some code.
Turing School of Software and Design in Denver is known for their seven-month long Web Application Development program which thoroughly prepares students to be professional developers. But in June 2016, Turing will launch a new, immersive Front-End Engineering program to meet the need for software developers who are experts in front-end technologies. We touch base with Turing founder Jeff Casimir to learn about the need for front end engineers and how their two programs will complement each other.
Why did you decide to add a Front-End Engineering immersive course at Turing?
I’ve been wanting to design a Front End course for three years. I always had some discomfort with the idea of “full stack developers”. If someone says they’re a full stack developer, it essentially means they went to a bootcamp. Experienced developers call themselves ‘developers’.
Will the Front-End Engineering course include UX/UI?
UX and UI need to be woven throughout the curriculum, but we’re not training designers. UI and UX need to inform what happens in the front end, but it’s not the main focus. Those specialties really belong to designers.
We decided to call this Front End Engineering to make it clear that this course is not configuring WordPress. It’s about programming, building software, mastering all our same processes, using test-driven development, iterations and agile just with front-end technologies.
Why make this a seven-month immersive course? Does it really take seven months to learn Front-End Engineering?
There’s always a soft bias in the industry that front end is “not that hard.” When I was a young whippersnapper learning my HTML before CSS existed, it really wasn’t that hard. The expectations were so low and the capabilities were so narrow, you could read a short book and know everything there was to know. Now, there’s so much innovation happening on the front end, and the tools are much better and more complex than they used to be. The expectations just keep going up.
One of the things I told the Turing team when we were brainstorming about the curriculum was not to cargo-cult the structures from our back end program. Our goal was to make fresh decisions. We looked at this vision we have for our students, and asked, what do they need to know? How long does it take to teach those things? Shocker – we came up with a four-quarter, 27-week program.
Why would a Turing applicant choose to do the front end class as opposed to the full stack course?
That’s going to be one of the toughest questions for us to answer. I think it comes down to your enjoyment of the visual aesthetic. Even though the front end program is not about being a designer, you’re still living in a design-oriented world, and in the back end you’re living in a computation-oriented world. So is number crunching and data fun to you? Or do you prefer the science of users and interactions?
The thing that surprises people is that this is a technical class. We’re building software developers who work with front-end technology.
There aren’t many other schools that have immersive front-end classes, but graduates of those classes say their classes skew female, which is interesting for a bootcamp in general. Have you seen that?
We’re too early to say. I would expect to see that though, just based on my own perspective.
If the Front End course does pull in a different student demographic, it will be really neat because the schedule will align with the back end program, so there’s tremendous potential and plans for a lot of crossover. In the third quarter, two people in the front end program are matched up with four people in the back end program, and the six of them are working on the same project together for two weeks. That kind of collaboration is going to enhance everyone’s learning.
I imagine that crossover will also spill into their side projects. I can’t wait to see what students with different specialties cook up when they work together.
This is a curriculum expansion, but how about geographic expansion – are you thinking about other cities?
I’m not interested in geographic expansion. It would be frustratingly easy for us to go to a new city and start a program like we have here. But I’m all about this critical mass of students. A year from now we’ll have 200 students in the building every day. With the culture we’re building and the personalities we attract – it’s going to be awesome. Because of that we’ll stay all together.
Who’s teaching this class? Have you hired someone new to teach front end?
Steve Kenny is one of our co-directors of academics and he’s designing and lead-instructing this program. We have three other existing instructors who’ll join that staff and we’ll bring in another four people by the end of the year.
Can students repeat modules in this course like they can in the Full Stack program?
We were initially going to run just one section of the course front-to-back. But at our Directors Team meeting one week Jorge asked two questions: “What’s the single biggest difference between Turing and our old programs?” The answer is the ability for students to repeat modules rather than just “pushing through” while falling behind. Then he followed with “A year from now, do you want the Front End curriculum to be on Iteration 2 or Iteration 6?”
From that conversation it was clear that the best thing for the students is to immediately go into our layered approach, starting a group every seven weeks just like the Full Stack program. By the end of the calendar year we’ll be up to full speed with four simultaneous classes. It means a lot of work for us on the operations side to recruit a whole bunch of students, hire and train the right instructors, and build out the right hiring network. But we’ll get it done.
What sort of jobs and roles will graduates get after the Front End Engineering course?
Who are those employers that you’re talking to? What kinds of companies?
We showed IBM our curriculum and they said, “If you could deliver these graduates, we would want 50 a year.” Even if that means just five a year, that’s a really good indicator. As we presented it to other consultancies and product companies, we’d hear that same reaction over and over.
Have companies like IBM warmed up to the idea of hiring from a bootcamp or hiring from Turing, or have they always been on board?
It’s tough with companies like that because there are so many departments, and they all operate totally differently. We have some good friends who run companies in Pittsburgh and Seattle that were acquired by IBM and I used to do a lot of training there so we talked to them.
Overall, those super-sized companies are still pretty hesitant to hire anybody who doesn’t have a CS degree. It’s understandable because they get plenty of applicants for front-end and back-end jobs that have done CS degrees. So why take the risk on “bootcamp people”? But once they hire one or two people and those people do great work, they come back for more.
What sort of salaries do Front End Developers land in Colorado?
One of the things that’s really important to me about Turing is our promise to the students. You pay this tuition, you spend all this time, put in all this effort and not only are you going to gain interesting skills and a cool job that you love, but that it also makes economic sense. If you were earning $40,000 before, and you spend all this time here to get a job earning $50,000, the payoff is too long. Our average salary from the Full Stack program right now is $75,000. So take the conservative side of that, call it $70,000. If you started at $40K now you have a salary increase of $30K, which means that the payoff timeline is less than two years.
So you predict that graduates will be making $70,000 a year?
For any program that we offer at Turing, the salary needs to stay in that range. Students need to be able to pay off this investment in two years and not get stuck in the same positions as students who have college debt of around $200,000 and are paying it off over 10 years, without even really knowing if they’re getting any real salary benefit out of it.
Will Turing be partnering with a university to be an EQUIP test site?
We submitted a letter of interest and I’m really excited about the potential of the program. I have a lot of respect for higher education and think our industry has a lot to learn. But recently we were notified that the letter of intent from our partner school, Denver Community College, was not selected for the application process. It’s a huge bummer and we’re working to see if there’s another way for us to still get involved with EQUIP.
Is government involvement in this industry a good thing?
There’s so much good stuff happening at the Department of Education, the White House Office of Science and Technology, and the Department of Labor. They’re trying to figure out how to help our industry do more of what we’re doing, which is super cool. I don’t think we’ve found the perfect way to do that yet, but EQUIP is a start. Over the past few years we have demonstrated that these programs can work. The question now is whether we’re able to open these opportunities to a truly broad range of the population or will they just be for the folks who already have a lot of opportunity. At Turing our mission is to unlock human potential by training a diverse, inclusive student body to succeed in high fulfillment technical careers. If the government can help us do it then I’m all about collaborating.
Are Coding Bootcamps the new "replacement" for college degrees? Or are bootcamp grads missing out on valuable Computer Science theory by opting out of a traditional CS degree? As coding bootcamps rise in popularity, they face both praise and criticism- but what is the real difference between these two education paths? Join Course Report and our expert panel (seriously, these folks are running the best bootcamps in the world) to dive into this topic: CS Degrees vs Coding Bootcamps.
We're so excited about the panel joining us for this webinar:Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)
At Course Report, we field a lot of questions about coding bootcamp cost. From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $5,000 to $21,000. So how do you decide what to budget for? Today, we're breaking down the costs of several popular coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
After studying history at Stanford and working in sales and marketing, Sekhar decided to become a software developer. Sekhar tells us how he decided on Turing School after months of research. Turing’s extended program (7 months), inclusive environment and model that ensures no student falls behind are just a few of the traits that set this bootcamp apart.
Liz: Tell us what you were up to before you started at Turing.
Sekhar: I had a pretty roundabout path to Turing, but I think I needed to see what was out there career-wise before choosing to study software. I studied history as an undergrad at Stanford. I took one Intro to Computer Science class and also Intro to Mathematical Logic alongside a mostly humanities course load. Those two classes weren’t required, but everyone encouraged taking courses outside your major. Those experiences were as close as I got to programming.
I started doing sales at a late-stage startup after I graduated, an enterprise software company named Box. For the three years prior to Turing, I worked in sales and marketing and most recently handled marketing for a boutique investment bank. At the end of those three years, I felt that I was not on a very intellectually engaging path and disliked the functional fields I had tried out. I was a budding “business guy” and not excited about it. People often make deliberate choices about their career, but I felt like I’d been making a series of reactive choices and wanted to go back to the drawing board entirely.
I decided to take a break in May and quit my job in finance. That same month I applied to Turing and got accepted. Afterwards I took a few months to myself, traveled, saw family and friends and did Turing's pre-work (a Pragmatic Studios Ruby course and a series of classes through Tealeaf Academy). I started Turing in late August and am set to graduate in mid-March.
Liz: Why did you decide on web development as a career path? Did working with developers factor into this decision?
Sekhar: I was very fortunate in having quite a bit of exposure to tech and to programming before deciding to attend Turing. Growing up in an Indian-American, I had many close friends and family members who’ve all had successful careers in software. In addition to working in tech business-side in Silicon Valley and Colorado myself, I also studied at schools that are very connected to the tech world. As a scholarship kid from Texas, I went to Phillips Exeter, Mark Zuckerberg's alma mater. Just recently, one of my closest friends from Exeter and former roommates quit his job in consulting and learned Rails on his own to start his own e-commerce company. After Exeter, I attended Stanford, where many of my classmates majored in Computer Science. At Stanford CS is now the most popular major; crazily enough, I was actually roommates and friends with one of the co-founders of Snapchat!
I did and do sense a level of opportunity in software. There’s a wide variety of career paths and there are plenty of directions I could see myself moving in. I started researching bootcamps around January of this year, and by May I knew that I wanted to do make the leap. I quit my job and within a week was accepted into Turing. I had the savings to spend a couple of months to relax and prepare for Turing.
Liz: Did you look at schools other than Turing?
Sekhar: Yes, I did some research. I used LinkedIn to see who in my network had gone to different bootcamps. I talked to folks that went to Hack Reactor, Flatiron, Galvanize and Turing. I also used Course Report and similar websites heavily, read plenty of material on Quora and watched a few videos on Youtube that the Turing staff made about the school.
Liz: So you thought about leaving Denver for a boot camp.
Sekhar: I did, but I wanted to stay and would like to stay in the area afterwards working. I have friends here, am in a long-term relationship and just moved here two years ago — I love it. It just worked out that the school that would’ve been my first choice regardless had roots here as well.
It’s easy to make a little too much of your top choice— do I have to go to a school that crosses off every single checkbox? Does that school even exist? I think it was a bit happenstance and bit deliberate that I ended up at Turing, and I couldn't be happier. Turing is clearly one of the best programming schools in the country.
I wasn’t making these decisions quickly and I didn’t reach out Turing two weeks before my class started, though I had classmates who did. I spent months researching bootcamps and took time to think about the decision and choice of school. I went to community nights, talked to the instructors at Turing and ultimately chose this school after some careful deliberation.
Liz: Did you have any doubts about attending bootcamp?
Sekhar: I talked about being exposed to web development and software in general through my education, but even with being exposed to it and having the educational background and ‘pedigree’, I was still a bit scared of the prospect. I was not bad at math, science or anything technical per se, but I chose to be a humanities major and you define yourself partly by what you’re good at and what you've done in the past. So to move out of my comfort zone and what I had studied gave me some initial anxiety.
My brother and father are both engineers, and they were interested but they were apprehensive about the whole educational model. You get funny reactions when you tell people about bootcamp-style schools — it’s unaccredited, starts in August and ends in March, you receive no degree — and it’s hard for most people to wrap their heads around.
Having people go before me and personally researching bootcamps for months (often using Course Report) were both influential in my decision. When I visited New York this past summer during my time off I had dinner with another Exeter friend and his wife, and coincidentally she had just quit her job in finance and enrolled at Flatiron, unbeknownst to me. Another guy from my dorm in high school had completed Flatiron’s iOS immersive this year as well. It’s something that more and more people that I know personally are doing, and that helped pave the path.
Liz: In doing that research, what was it that set Turing apart for you?
Sekhar: Turing in particular has a real community and educational focus, and Jeff obviously has a strong reputation in the Ruby world and programming education space. He’s definitely well known both in and out of Colorado, and everything I read online about Jeff and Turing was positive. The nonprofit side and educational focus of Turing also really appealed to me. The instructors here all have an extensive educational background, many with years of teaching experience in K-12 environments and other arenas. As a work-study role in undergrad, I worked for Stanford in student services and the admissions office. I personally care a lot about education and felt like Turing shared that same ethos. The bootcamp industry is almost entirely for-profit, which I don't inherently find an issue with, but Turing is doing something different and that appealed to me.
I’ve also been out of school for three years and chose to make a career change, so I wanted to have a good foundation in my new skill set. I knew seven months would feel quite different than three months and that I would have less knowledge gaps by the end. I could probably handle a 12-week or 14-week program and 80-hour weeks, but I also know myself and my limits. I was really attracted to the intermission week model. There’s still a bunch of work to do each intermission week at Turing (on the order of 20-40 hours of work), but you can have a bit of a breather from the crazy schedule and stress of being in a module.
Liz: What was the application process like for you? What level did you have to get to coding-wise to get through the application?
Sekhar: Turing has a really good program for absolute beginners, which appealed to me. There’s no coding challenge during the application process but we had a logic challenge. It’s a 1-2 hour test with LSAT-type logic problems. You can find lots of examples of LSAT logic problems online to prepare for it.
The application process consisted of a short form, a writing sample on a topic of interest, a 4 minute video of yourself and the logic challenge. It was a pretty straightforward process and I think a lot of people do it in a day or a weekend. I took about a week on it. I took some time with the take-home logic challenge and I edited the writing sample. You could probably do it all in four to five hours.
Liz: Do you think that process worked well in terms of selecting for students that are a good fit for the program?
Sekhar: I think the application process did a pretty good job; we have a diverse and able cohort overall.
There are about 22 people right now in our second six week module. There are good weeks and tough weeks for me, but I'm managing well and feel like I keep up with my classmates and contribute regularly on projects and in the classroom. Everyone has their areas of strength. We’re starting to get into frameworks and Rails. I know students who are strong at Ruby, but are struggling with Rails. Many folks also gravitate towards front-end versus back-end on projects.
Another huge selling point for Turing was they actually cared about diversity and inclusion. You could tell that they wanted to bring more women, minorities, and more LGBT people into the industry and see a lot of emphasis on that from everybody.
Liz: Are there specific things they do at Turing to foster a more inclusive environment?
Sekhar: Absolutely. We have community days on Fridays where we don't work on our current projects and do student led electives, workshops, and have a guest speaker. Turing really emphasizes taking a break from projects on Fridays. There’s a weekly meetup for the women at Turing to get coffee together that the school supports. I formed an LGBT affinity group that does a handful of events every module.
One Friday tradition is that we have “Gear Ups” which are workshops focused on specific issues. We read a piece, do some writing, discuss it in a small group; it’s usually an hour long. The topics include things like managing stress, how we approach careers and money to diversity and inclusion-related topics. For the first Gear Up, we read a piece about intersectionalities, white privilege and male privilege by a professor at Wellesley (a women’s college in Massachusetts). She talked about her struggles as a woman and yet her simultaneous privilege as a white woman compared to what her black female colleagues went through. It was a really interesting piece on racism and sexism.
I was in a small group composed of two women and myself; we had a really engaging conversation about our prior work experiences and our experience at Turing so far. We all wrote a little bit about what our privileges are and situations that you often don’t ever critically think about. For example, I walk in a grocery store or I walk into a jewelry store and nobody follows me around or thinks I’m going to steal something. That was really powerful for me, discussing issues you would never imagine talking about with my fellow classmates at a “coding school.” Gear Ups are a great component of the Turing experience.
It’s been a real pleasure to attend school here, and I respect what Jeff is doing. He can very easily talk about topics unrelated to programming, but his goal always is, as he always says, “to make students uncomfortable.” Jeff wants people to think, and thinks we’re learning the most and thinking the most when we’re uncomfortable.
Liz: Does Jeff teach any of your modules?
Sekhar: He teaches module one, which has two tracks. There’s an absolute beginner's track for folks who don’t have much coding experience and there’s an advanced beginners track for folks that have had some exposure to programming. He also teaches on rare occasion a guest class in later modules, such as the MVC class in module two.
Liz: Which track did you do?
Sekhar: I did the absolute beginner track, for students with effectively no prior programming experience. I started in the other track but dropped down. The curriculum is designed at two slightly different paces. Both cohorts end up at the same place and merge by the second module.
Jeff taught more of the absolute beginner track, which I think was a really good fit for him and for everybody. I had Jeff in my class most days in my first module.
Liz: Are the classes lecture-focused?
Sekhar: There’s more at the beginning. There’s a good amount of lecture, a good amount of hands-on workshops and a lot of very directed, very structured material. But there is a lot of project time, especially when we get into the bigger projects.
Towards the end of module one, there are a handful of days where it’s all project time as we’re working on the final project.
I think the general approach of the school is that as it gets more project heavy, there’s less class time. The school is very project-heavy, and over the four modules you gradually just do bigger and bigger projects, more and more often.
I’ve definitely never done this many large projects on my own in my life. The closest thing I’ve probably done is write large research papers as an undergrad. I was definitely uncomfortable at the beginning of many big projects at Turing. It takes five to ten plus hours to get a sense of the project’s purpose and sketch out the wireframes and initial code.
Former students advised us to ask questions and get help when we get stuck. They said, “It’s a big adjustment and it’s a difficult school. This is a 70-hour a week commitment, if not more. You’re going to get stuck a lot, especially in the beginning. If you’re stuck for longer than 15 or 30 minutes, ask somebody to point you in the right direction.” That advice has helped me immensely.
Liz: Are the projects that you’ve done so far individual projects? Are they assigned to you?
Sekhar: My sense of the whole curriculum is that it’s half-half. It’s half individual projects and half group projects. There may be slightly more group projects. A big part of their focus is pairing, soft skills and communication.
I’ve done four individual projects and something like three paired projects, at a little less than halfway through. They’re pretty different experiences, working with somebody versus doing a project entirely on your own.
Liz: Do you learn agile methodology?
Sekhar: We do, throughout our experience. We are often given projects where we have simulated client meetings throughout, and we have to write code that’s adaptable to client requests that change over the course of the project. On a related note, every single day we talk about testing, so there’s a focus on TDD (Test-Driven Development) as well throughout the curriculum. Turing tries to simulate the working world environment for developers as much as possible throughout most of the program.
Liz: How do demo days work?
Sekhar: Usually students present projects that they’ve finished in modules 2, 3 and 4. One of the demo days I went I remember seeing what the students did as their final projects. They present, and afterwards you can meet the students and have a talk over pizza and drinks. I followed up with a few students and met them for coffee to learn a bit more about Turing.
Liz: What is assessment like at Turing?
Sekhar: That’s changed quite a bit in the last 3-4 months. Student portfolios are assessed at the end of every module. The portfolio includes all the projects in a given module, community work with Turing, such as participation in clubs or mentoring/pairing with other students, goals for the module and personal reflection on what was learned.
The portfolio is assessed by the instructors. Jeff likens it to defending a dissertation. Modules are seven weeks long and usually more than one person does not pass in each cohort. It’s not easy. The portfolio is separate from the core academic components, which is a final project and a one-on-one assessment.
The final project in modules one and two are two weeks long and involve working with at least one other person. Last module I worked on a project called Headcount in which we analyzed large Excel files with real educational data from all Colorado school districts, cover tens of thousands of lines of spreadsheet data. We parsed that data and built an analyzer to look at test scores and the percentage of students on free lunch in every single school district in Colorado. We tested the Ruby concepts we learned on a production level scale. It was probably one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done in my life, and the hardest project I’ve done so far at Turing.
You have to get certain grades on both the project and 1-on-1 assessment to pass the module, but there’s some room for flexibility. They may give you additional work over the intermission week or an opportunity to reassess later during finals week. There’s a lot of factors that influence graduation from modules at Turing. The flip side is flexibility. The person who I worked with on the first final project ended up repeating module one and she understands everything better this time around. It’s a good system for people to progress at their own pace.
Liz: What’s been the biggest challenge so far at Turing or bootcamp in general?
Sekhar: There’s a lot of challenging components to the bootcamp experience. I went to a difficult high school and college, and I was generally a stereotypical “good student” throughout. I pushed myself a lot, but I would say Turing is probably the hardest I’ve pushed myself in a long time, if not ever.
It’s not like going back to school. I have friends who are in law school or business school and they might have one class on a Friday and another one or two on a Thursday. At Turing you’re at school a minimum of eight hours every weekday (roughly 8:30am to 4:30pm). I’m usually here 12 to 14 hours, 10 hours minimum. I often take work home with me.
The pace has definitely been the biggest challenge. On the flip side, I have learned so much and I have built a lot of tangible, interesting projects. I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough, but I would say I’m doing relatively well among my peers and putting in a solid amount of effort.
Liz: Are there things that you would change about your experience? I’m curious about the feedback loop.
Sekhar: The staff alters the curriculum and program in response to student feedback every single week and especially every module. They also get new ideas based on their observations. Every Friday we complete surveys about the week — which lessons were the best, which lessons were the worst, what could be improved, our thoughts on the assignments and projects. We do “group retros” where we talk about what went well in the week and what went poorly. Students often care about making things a little better for the next group. For example, in the Headcount project, there were parts that were confusing and rough around the edges, so we all edited that project together on Github and improved it for the next group.
Students often have unrealistic expectations of what a school that starts from scratch can do. I wouldn’t say that every lesson is perfectly polished, but I would say this course is better than the majority, if not vast majority, of classes I took in college, and I went to an undergraduate school with plenty of resources.
The instructors I’ve had so far have put a lot of effort into planning the curriculum, taking in student feedback and varying their teaching style because not everybody learns the same way. I’ve given my share of feedback, but overall there isn’t much I would change about the experience.
Liz: Are you confident in your ability to get a job when you graduate?
Sekhar: I am confident. It’s a question that’s definitely on everyone’s mind. A Turing student or alum gets a job offer pretty much every week. Some students in module 4 (the last module) have received job offers already. They might even leave in the middle of the module depending on their personal situation, but usually they stay through the end of school. About two weeks ago, two students left after receiving job offers. Every time a student gets a job offer that they accept, they announce it at the wrap-up at 4 pm and everyone congratulates them. It’s pretty neat to watch and definitely takes away some of the anxiety you have as an early student at Turing.
I’m not worried about getting a job because most Turing students that I know have got a job within three months of graduating, often much sooner. It’s important to be flexible on geography and the role itself. I'm going to keep my eye out, build a strong portfolio of projects and start networking. A lot of students have started at really excellent jobs out of Turing, both locally and around the country if not world. We had one student who accepted a job at Andela, training students at a bootcamp based in Lagos, Nigeria who came from all over Africa.
Liz: What type of company you want to work for?
Sekhar: I’d be happy to go to any place – I know it’s cliché – that offers me the opportunity to learn and grow, receive mentorship, develop hands on experience and work with senior developers. An environment that has a strong culture of TDD and pair programming would be ideal, but I’m pretty flexible given that it’ll be my first role in what’s hopefully a long career in software.
Because Course Report is part of this growing coding bootcamp industry, we are very interested in who is attending bootcamps and what that means for the larger tech industry. The growing interest in diversity in tech has led to an ongoing conversation that has even reached the White House. Here are the facts:Continue Reading →
Turing School of Software and Design is a place for new beginnings, and for some, second chances, as is the case with George Hudson. We recently got an opportunity to talk with George about the unique path he has taken thus far, his life at Turing, as well as his goals for after graduation. George is yet another great example of how people take on the challenge of completing a rigorous immersion program like that offered at Turing to initiate a new life. Check out Hudson’s story and his impressions on one of Turing’s latest cohorts.
What were you up to before you started at Turing?
Before I enrolled at Turing, I went through gSchool in Denver. Prior to that I spent most of my adult life either in active duty or Air Force National Guard where I was hands-on working with munitions, and carefully following written specific instructions. I have done a decent amount of general contract construction work as well. I have also been a Colorado certified massage therapist. I was trying to get a change of pace and thought this would be a good fit for me, and while I still enjoy providing therapy to family and friends, I did not enjoy it as a job.
When did you do gSchool? Why didn’t you graduate?
I was thrilled to be selected to go through gSchool and was excited to go. However, I did not graduate due to personal issues (custody matters and health issues on top of the fast pace of the gSchool course). I have since found out that I have Hashimoto's Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder where my body attacks my thyroid. I am treating this with hormone replacements and and have custody matters resolved. I began working security and continued my service in the Colorado Air National Guard. Basically, I worked hard to get my life back in order.
Did you spend a lot of time on Code Academy or other sites prior to enrolling in a bootcamp?
I have used Code Academy quite a bit. I used it to prepare for Turing. I used it to prepare for gSchool-01 two years ago when I went through the course.
Why did you choose Turing after gSchool? What factors did you consider?
Just before I deployed to Korea with the Guard at the beginning of 2015, Jeff Casimir told me that Turing School was operating well and offered me a place, tuition considered already paid! I considered my options: I could either stay in the military and try for a full-time position, or go back to school and give the developer career another chance. I decided on Turing due to the challenge it represented. I enjoyed the mental calisthenics of gSchool and didn't feel particularly challenged by the military. Sure it was hard work, but I I felt stagnate.
How many people are in your cohort?
I am in the 1507 cohort at Turing which started out with 24 students. Turing split the class into those who had some programming experience and those that were completely or almost completely new to programming. Since I had gone through gSchool (even though I didn't graduate), I opted for the group that had programming experience and I was pleased with my decision.
What was the difference between the experienced cohort and non-experienced cohort?
We were thrust into challenging coding situations sooner and didn't have to cover the basics as much. I took every project as an opportunity to prove to myself that I deserved to be there. See, there was a nagging spot in my mind that was worried that the real reason I didn't qualify for graduation from gSchool was not that I had extenuating circumstances, but that I wasn't smart enough and was just using those experiences as superficial excuses. Plus, being granted a free ride my second time through, I felt I needed to show Jeff that his charity was well placed!
Is your Turing cohort diverse in terms of age, gender and race?
I am not the only prior military Turning has accepted into its program. Turing makes efforts to increase diversity through scholarships for all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds, gender, age, and race. I thought I was going to be the oldest person at Turing. Turns out I am far off at only 37 year old. There are more than a few in their 40s. Just today, I heard conversations revolving around people'e ethnic backgrounds and heard a plethora of cultures represented. Irish, Italian, African, South American, Central American, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, though there were more I am forgetting. While I feel that women were underrepresented in my particular cohort (we are down to 3 out of 20 after having one drop out of the program and one go through the first 6 week block again), other cohorts seemed to have a higher percentage and the new cohort coming in, 1508, seems to be around a third of the students.
Who is your instructor and what is their teaching style?
For block 1, we had three primary instructors: Mike Dao (a Turing graduate), Josh Cheek, and Jeff Casimir. There was a wide range of teaching styles, which included lectures, hands on learning, and even arts and crafts modeling in order to help envision a particular concept such as inheritance in Ruby. They also teach you how to learn, often giving material which was not yet covered as homework and letting you struggle to find answers the best way you saw fit. There is easy access to volunteer mentors, instructors are always willing to help, and there is always Google and StackOverflow (though Jeff pointed out, "where does someone go to find answers for how to fix Stack Overflow if the site suddenly goes down?!?" haha)
What technologies are you working on?
Though they don’t always state “This is an agile methodology,” they start teaching agile business practices right from the “Git” go. It is ingrained in the system throughout and is not a side project or quickly added in at the end. To this end, there are many tools used by teams we are introduced to including screen sharing, linking to common screens for pairing, and project management tools (Waffle.io, Pivotal tracker, Jira etc.) We document all our homework and projects using Git and GitHub.
Since you’ve been through both programs, what is the biggest difference between Turing and gSchool?
Being able to retake blocks if you do not pass or do not feel like you learned what you wished, is a policy I am glad they have in effect. When I went through gSchool, even though I was not quite where I needed to be at each of the assessments, I was just told to try to keep up and learn more on top of my shaky foundation. I think this is a vast improvement! The way Turing has the block system setup allows for this with minimal hoop jumping!
Has Turing started doing job preparation with your class? Do you practice whiteboarding, work on your LinkedIn?
They have asked us to not focus on any jobs yet. While they do teach things like whiteboarding and teaching data-structures, logic and algorithms which will help in the interviewing process, Turing wants us to focus on building our skills as developers and finding our strengths and interests before beginning to look at jobs based upon those strengths and interests.
What is your goal after graduating Turing? Do you want to be a junior developer, start your own business, etc?
I would like to find a place where I can perform my tasks remotely, and has a culture that deeply understands the unique challenges associated with such a work structure. I want to grow as a developer and if I don’t have enough support along these lines in a remote job, I would prefer to work on site with a mid-sized company that has the resources to help me advance. Ideally, I would work for a company that has ties to health, environment, or education.
Welcome to the August News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
The July News Roundup is your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the coding bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
African-Americans make up only 4% of people in software development jobs, and Latino/as make up only 5% of these jobs in the US (source). Coding bootcamps will graduate over 16,000 students this year and place them into jobs as developers at startups and enterprise companies. 63% of those coding bootcamp graduates are white. In this webinar, we're joined by code schools Turing, Sabio.la, Startup Institute, and Telegraph Academy to talk about racial diversity in bootcamps, why we should change these statistics, and how bootcamps can support students from underrepresented backgrounds.Continue Reading →
Turing School of Software & Design offers a seven-month intensive course in web development. Rose Kohn recently made the big move from D.C. to Denver to enroll at Turing. Kohn is now several weeks into the program, and she recently found some time in her very busy schedule to reflect on her impressions of the experience thus far. She discussed with Course Report why she decided Turing was the best fit for her and how their amicable course structure and teaching approach has made this huge life transition easier.
What were you up to before starting at Turing?
After I graduated from college, I moved to South America with the intention of teaching English. After I got my TEFL, I ended up not using my certification, but instead working for an internet startup company. While there for two and a half years, I was reviewing other startups for their business potential. I then became content manager of the site and soon after, project manager.
Unfortunately, the company moved to Uruguay. At the time I feIt like I didn’t have the technical background to continue in the startup realm, even though I really enjoyed working in the industry. So I ended up moving back to D.C.
While at home I built up a pet care company with my family. Between then and now I’ve also lived in Israel where I took courses in photography and graphic design, and travelled through Asia for 6 months where I also got certified to teach yoga.
I wanted to move out west, but I wasn’t sure what to do in terms of a job. A friend ended up suggesting that I check out coding, knowing how I love to travel and pointing out how web development could be location independent. I started some tracks on Codecademy and really enjoyed being able to create through code, even if just by walking through tutorials. The logical part of coding was really appealing to me as well. I thought that if I learned to code, I wouldn’t have to worry as much about finding a job in another city, which was very appealing to me.
Did you spend a lot of time on Codecademy or other sites before you applied to Turing?
Not a ton of time, but I did run through a few of the tracks on Codecademy and I looked at Code School and Jumpstart Labs as well.
Why did you choose Turing? Did you look at other boot camps?
When I started the search I was looking at every possible resource, checking for what might be the best fit for me. I spent an exhausting amount of time looking up all of the bootcamps, trying to examine the benefits of each.
I ended up applying to two: General Assembly and Turing. General Assembly because it was the only bootcamp in D.C. and Turing because I liked their program length and I kept hearing such great things about Jeff (Casimir). The big decision was between staying in D.C. or moving all the way to Denver.
Everything I saw about Turing was consistently positive. I talked to a few of the alumni, all of whom had positive things to say, and everyone kept mentioning what a great teacher Jeff was. I liked the fact that it was a longer program because I was worried about how much I would be able to learn in three months. I didn’t think I would be truly employable so quickly and I thought seven months would give me more depth.
Did you do a technical interview or a cultural fit interview? Did you have to do a coding challenge for Turing?
The Turing application doesn’t have a coding challenge. In terms of challenges, there are several logic problems that you have to complete for one section of the application. When you do your actual interview with one of the teachers here, they review whether or not you’d be a good fit culturally and then do another logic problem with you.
What did the logic puzzle consist of?
It’s an LSAT logic problem. It’s supposed to be an indicator of how well you’ll do in the program, since thinking logically is a large part of coding. You have to think step-by-step and work your way through it.
How many people are in your cohort?
There are currently 26.
Is it diverse in terms of age, and gender? Is everyone coming in at the same technical experience technical level?
For this current cohort, they did something they hadn’t done before. Turing broke people up into two different groups based on how much experience they had.
It’s been nice because it makes the class less intimidating. I feel totally free to ask whatever question without judgment.
In terms of diversity, we currently have six women in the group and 20 guys, and the age range is between 18 and late 30s.
What is the Turing teaching style?
One of our teachers, Jeff, uses a lot of metaphors and stories to discuss concepts before we jump into the code, which is very helpful. He then goes and shows it on the whiteboard or he walks us through it on the computer. It helps to visualize concepts first and then be able to see how it applies to coding.
What have you been learning these first two weeks?
The first module we only concentrate on Ruby basics. We just got our first project a couple days ago called Chisel, where you have to make a renderer that takes a Markdown file and turns it into HTML. So we’re pretty busy with that.
You said you were from D.C. and you moved out there to Denver. How was that? Did Turing help you find a place or did you have a friend there already?
When I got accepted, I tweeted that I had gotten in, and someone who was about to make the move to start Turing from D.C. saw the post and sent a message letting me know I could reach out to him if I had any questions regarding the move or the school. He was super helpful with tips on how to make the jump. In terms of finding a place, they’re happy to help here with info on neighborhoods to check out and the basics, but I just used Craigslist (and some local relatives’ advice) to find an apartment. It wasn’t that hard, and Denver has exceeded my expectations (during the rare moments when I get to check out the city and nearby mountains).
Is there anything unique about the program so far that might have surprised you?
I was nervous about being less experienced than the other people in my cohort before the course started, but the way that they’ve broken it up this time has been great and as a group I think we all feel more confident in this setup. I’m also incredibly surprised by how nice everyone is. No matter which module people are in, they are open to helping you out, even if they have projects of their own to work on.
Are you satisfied with your decision to go to Turing?
Totally, I could not be happier with my decision. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming (or most of the time), but definitely worth it.
Is there anything specific you would like to do after you graduate from Turing?
I would probably want to work at a company where I could grow and learn from other experienced developers and then see where that takes me. I do like the whole potential freedom aspect of not being permanently bound to one place, but that’s a ways away and all up in the air.
Do you have any advice for people looking for a bootcamp to attend?
I would say don’t feel intimidated about applying and going to one of these schools if you don’t have any experience. Everyone, at least at Turing, is very welcoming and ready to help you, even with all that they have going on. I would also definitely consider one of the longer programs, because I think you get a whole lot more out of it. I can’t imagine being ready to program at a real job after three months. Try to find a school that fits your style of learning.
Want to learn more about Turing? Check out Turing reviews, course details and more on Course Report or the Turing website here.
"Can I be a programmer if I'm not a math genius?"Continue Reading →
The typical narrative of a coding bootcamp goes something like this: “Quit your job, say your goodbyes to your friends and significant other, learn to code around the clock for three months, and graduate job-ready.” Much of the appeal of coding bootcamps (versus, say, an undergraduate Computer Science degree) is their short turnaround and high return on investment. The average bootcamp is 10 weeks long, which represents less of an opportunity cost in terms of paychecks and time. A 10-week class can also easily fit into a summer break, making it an ideal option for students and teachers. So why are some future bootcampers opting for coding programs upwards of 7 months long? Turing, one school leading the long-form revolution, gives us their perspective.Continue Reading →
In this three-part series Jeff Casimir from the Turing School explores the three aptitudes you need to be a successful programmer. Up first: How the LSAT can help prepare you for a career in programming.Continue Reading →
Kristina Brown was working for an online coffee subscription company, where she got some experience working with engineers and decided to make a career change. So she moved her family (Kristina has a two-year old daughter!) to Denver, and started a 7-month journey to becoming a developer at Turing School. We talk to Kristina about the research she did when deciding on a bootcamp, her first few weeks at Turing, and the advice she has for other moms considering a career change.
What you were up to before you started at Turing?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Seattle Pacific University and I was working in the specialty coffee industry for 7 years after graduating. My latest position was in online customer service for a coffee subscription company in Portland. That’s how I started learning about the digital side of things and working with engineers.
Did you have any technical background when you applied to Turing? Had you done Codecademy or an online platform?
I had done lessons on Codecademy and have read a few books to teach myself a little bit. But I wouldn’t say I had any experience- I was a total beginner.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp? Did you want to change careers or did you have an idea for your own company?
The goal was to make the transition from customer service at my company to developer. I wanted to stay at my company but get a job as a developer.
Why did you choose Turing? Tell us about your research process.
What stood out about Turing was the opinion from people I knew in the Ruby community. In their eyes, Turing was the only credible school. Not to talk down on other schools, but that was the number one factor in me choosing and looking into Turing- it is so highly thought of in the community.
I definitely looked at code schools in Portland because it would have been much easier to not move to Denver- I have a husband and a daughter. I talked to people who went through some of the schools in Portland and Seattle, but I heard a lot about their struggles with finishing school and not really succeeding in the industry.
The length of the Turing curriculum (7 months) and the fact that Jeff Casimir is involved also had a lot to do with it. I showed the curriculum and syllabus from other schools to the engineers who worked at my company, and they said it just didn’t compare to Turing’s.
What was the application process like for you? As a beginner, did you have to do a technical interview, a culture interview?
There was a written part of the application where you had to write about something you were expert in, and a logic portion. There’s also a video portion, where you make a two-minute video of yourself talking about your goals .Then there’s an interview process and there’s another logic session in the interview process.
Did you feel like you needed to have specific technical skills to get through that application?
Not at all.
So you ended up applying to Turing and you’re in the class now. How far are you through the class?
I’m three weeks into the first module.
How many people are in your cohort?
Do you find it to be a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender, race?
It’s definitely diverse. The age range is hard to tell- I guess we’re all early-to-late twenties. I know that I’m 29 and it seems like a lot of people are younger than me but there are also other people with families.
There’s a good ratio of men/women, which is really nice. It’s close to 50-50, I would say.
The class is racially diverse, and everyone has diverse backgrounds. There are people who have done front-end programming who are coming here to learn to learn back-end and we have an ex professional basketball player; it is a wide range of people.
Do you feel particularly supported at Turing as a woman or has that come up?
I think the fact that it isn’t a part of my thought process means that it’s not an issue here. I definitely don’t think that we’re treated at all differently as women. There are women in the other cohorts too so I don’t feel like a minority by any means.
We have guest speakers every week; last week, one of the women in my cohort asked a speaker’s advice on being a woman in the field and she just said, “brace yourself.” It was kind of a sad moment across the room, because at Turing, no one is experiencing that yet.
Did you feel like everyone in your class started on a similar technical level?
I’ve been told that it levels out eventually. I think that those of us at the very bottom who have zero background are spending a lot more time doing homework right now, spending a lot more time studying and asking more questions but I think that by the end we’ll be on the same level.
Who is the instructor for this first module?
Jeff does a lot of the lectures and so does Horace.
What is the teaching style like? What does a typical day look like?
The first 30 minutes in the morning are a warm-up called Posse Time. I’m in a posse with three other people- one from my cohort.
With every lecture there seems to be a lab component. That’s usually how it works Monday through Wednesday. There’s an hour and a half lecture, and then we apply it in some way in a lab and then we move on to the next one. That seems to be the pattern.
How many cohorts are in the space right now?
Four; there’s always four at a time. When we start the next module, the new cohort will be coming in.
Is there an exam or an assessment at the end of this first module?
There’s an assessment. I’m not stressing about it yet but I think we’ll have a practice one next week. I don’t know exactly what the structure will be like but I think we’ll have 30 – 45 minutes to sit down with the instructors and they’ll watch us solve a problem and see if we understand the concepts.
I know you’re only three weeks through but what technologies have you all learned so far?
Right now we’re learning Ruby basics. A lot of it is computer science topics, how things interact together, the basics of what a programming language is and how it works. We’ve done a lot of small projects and are talking a lot about design, like designing a frame properly and testing in.
It is definitely theory but from the first day we have been writing code. We code every day and we’re always doing homework.
How many hours a week would you say you’ve been devoting to Turing in total?
Class is 9:00am to 4:00pm. I usually come in an hour early and stay an hour late. I’ve been doing probably 30 -35 hours a week of extra work.
I feel like I’m learning a lot, so I definitely don’t feel burned out; it’s moving so super quick. It’s a lot of work but I don’t feel like it’s too much to handle. It’s definitely hard to balance; my daughter is two years old so that adds some constraints but I can still come early and stay late.
It must be difficult to be away from your daughter- are she and your husband still in Portland?
No; we all moved! My husband and I work for the same company, based in Oakland, and we both worked remotely in Portland. We moved to Denver and now he works remotely from here. It would be not unlike us to stay here and it would also be not unlike us to move to Oakland to be near our company.
It sounds like Turing was a good fit for you. Are there things that you wouldn’t expect or that you would change or have given feedback about at all?
Not yet. I talked to a lot of people who went to gSchool early on with Jeff and so I knew that it was going to be very intense and a lot of work. I actually hyped myself up a lot about it because of my daughter; I knew it would be a lot more difficult, so I was prepared for the worst and it was in the back of my mind, what if I just can’t logistically make this happen?
If I could change one thing, it’s the way I was thinking about it beforehand. I will definitely encourage any mother who’s thinking of doing the program and is nervous about it.
Do you have specific advice for moms who are thinking about making a career change and doing a bootcamp?
My advice is just to go for it. You can make anything work and be better on the other end. It’s hard but it’s going to be better.
You’re only three weeks in, but has Turing started to incorporate job prep into the class at all?
Turing is definitely addressing that. For example, this week we were taught about things that throw people off at interviews, like “Do this problem in 15 minutes.” It’s a different scenario than we’re all used to- it’s not a two-week project; it’s solving a simple problem in 15 minutes. So we’re going to regularly solve quick problems and have practice doing that because it’s a different skill.
I know that the people who are getting ready to graduate are strongly encouraged to go to meetups and have a lot more job prep in their curriculum.
What makes for the ideal coding bootcamp student? Experience? Perserverence? Natural Skill? We've compiled advice from instructors and founders at top programming bootcamps like gSchool, Dev Bootcamp, Wyncode, and Fullstack Academy- aka the folks making admissions decisions every day. Read on for the 8 qualities that bootcamps tell us they look for in potential applicants.Continue Reading →
Tino Espinoza was a student in his freshman year at the University of Denver, but he hadn’t yet decided on his major. Having seen his friends with coding skills get great jobs, Tino decided that coding was the path for him, and Turing’s 7-month structure in Colorado stood out. As Tino heads into the end of his first module, we talk to him about convincing his parents of the bootcamp model, avoiding stress when it comes to assessments, and the benefits of a rolling start date at Turing.
What were you up to before you started Turing?
I had graduated high school and was a freshman at the University of Denver. I hadn’t declared a major; I was just taking my basic classes.
Did you ever take a computer science class in high school?
Not in high school. I took a typing class and a computer class in middle school. Other than that, I did some Codecademy but I didn’t finish it.
Did you drop out of college or put it on hold in order to do Turing?
College is on hold right now. I started going to Turing the Monday that I got out of school. Right now I’m taking the semester off.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp?
I saw friends who were getting jobs with their coding skills. One in particular had dropped out of school and got a job. I figured it would be best if I sat down for seven months and just put time to learn to code.
Did you research schools other than Turing?
I looked at gSchool, but I just had heard really good things about Turing. I just snuck into a class one day, checked out the school and it seemed like something I really liked.
I was looking at three-month schools, but I figured that in the course of seven months I’d probably learn more. I wanted to get really good and in-depth. I ended up only applying to Turing.
What was the application process like for you?
There was a resume, a writing sample, a test and a video. The writing sample was kind of hard for me because you had to explain a complex topic or something in your area of expertise and I didn’t have what I thought was expertise.
After that I did an in-person interview. At the end of the interview, Jorge, my interviewer, told me I was accepted and I was at Turing a week later.
Did you feel like you needed a technical background in order to get through the interview at all?
Not really. There was never a time when I was actually tested on how much code I knew. There was a logic test that tested if I have that kind of a skillset, but it wasn’t based on any prior knowledge that I had about coding.
If you were already enrolled in your undergrad, why not just be a Computer Science major and go through the next three years of computer science?
I was interested in a lot of different topics. I really liked coding and computers but I also liked math. It just made more sense to learn the skills now and after seven months, be able to work in the field, as opposed to going through four years of education and then working. Turing just seemed like a faster track that was more suited for me.
What have you learned in just the first module of Turing?
We’re about to finish the first module. The time just flew by. I didn’t realize how much I knew until the other day I looked at someone who had been here longer than me and I looked at all their stuff and realized how much I’d learned as opposed to two months ago. Mostly, we’ve been learning the fundamentals of Ruby and how everything works. Surprisingly, I felt that I could do a lot more than I thought I’d be able to at the beginning.
Have you done projects and built things yet in this first module?
Yeah, and I think we’ve started doing more projects than the past students have done. We’re starting to do multiple projects at once and we always have something going on which I really like, because when I talk to friends or family I can show them stuff I’ve done.
What did your friends and family think when you put college on hold to do Turing?
My dad trusted that I knew what I was doing but my mom was pushing a computer science degree. Once I got in, they were a bit uneasy about it but once they saw that I was learning a lot, they pretty much supported me all the way.
How many people are in your cohort right now?
I think it’s a little bit over 20.
Do you see a lot of diversity in your cohort?
I think it’s diverse in every way. There’s a lot of different skill levels- people who pick up on everything quicker and some people who have to work longer. There are men and women from all locations and different backgrounds.
Who is your instructor now?
Right now it’s mostly Jeff Casimir.
What is Jeff’s teaching style like?
He’ll present us with a problem and he’ll let us struggle with it. Then a day or two later, he’ll show us how to solve it, which could be frustrating at first but once you get used to it, it trains you to solve problems better. Instead of just being taught something and shown how to do it, we’re working it out ourselves and getting help from him afterwards.
Just asking a lot of questions helps me; getting really in depth and asking why a lot is what helps me. You can ask Jeff anything and he could explain it to you and how everything works. At the same time when we’re trying to figure it out on our own, it gives us room to explore and experience it for ourselves.
Does Turing have TAs helping out?
Yeah. Mostly, you get help from the other students, especially ones in the older cohorts. We could basically go to any of them and ask them questions; everybody is happy to help you.
One of the coolest parts for me is how the community all just comes together in that way. There are always people who were recently in your shoes. It’s really easy to get help.
Can you tell us what a typical day has looked like in this first module?
In the morning we have warm-ups for half an hour and we gather with our “posses.” Our posses are two to three other students kind of randomly selected across different cohorts. In mine, I’m with people in the third and fourth module, so we get together and solve problems together; usually problems we haven’t seen before. We collaborate with our different levels of experience and solve problems. Sometimes they’re code-related and sometimes they’re brainteaser-type questions.
After that half hour, we’ll probably learn about some new topic or how to do something. Maybe we’ll talk about a project that was due that day. Then we’ll have work time.
In the afternoon we turn in our projects and go over them. There’s a structure to it but Turing looks different every day.
For example, right now I’m in “work time.” I’m working on a project right now with a partner, and we’re trying to fix it. The project is a sales engine. It accesses databases and you can look up which vendors made the most sales or look up all the items sold. We’re taking data and making it all work together.
So you’re almost done with your first module; do you have an assessment or an exam at the end of this?
Next week is the last week of the module, on Tuesday we have our assessment or diagnostic. If we don’t quite get it, we can redo it on Thursday. Then they decide if we’re going to redo the first module or not.
There’s a halfway mark in the first module when we do an assessment/diagnostic to make sure we’re on the right track. I think that was really helpful because it lets me see what the assessment is going to be like even though it won’t be on the same exact things. It gave me a chance to see where I was at, where I was supposed to be, and how I could prepare myself.
There are two or three people who are in my cohort, repeating Module 1. I think it’s good to have them in the cohort because they ask the questions that newer folks are scared to ask. Even though they seem to understand it all, they’re always asking really clear and distinct questions that probably tripped them up the first time around.
After this module is over, what is your plan for the one-week “intermission?”
After each module we have a week to take a break so that we don’t burn out. When I got here I asked a lot of people what they did in their spare time when they’re not coding and they all said... coding. Every single one.
How many hours a week would you say you’ve been spending on Turing?
I get here at 8:00am; I usually don’t leave till around 4:00 or maybe 5:00, so I think that’s around eight hours a day. I think it’s definitely something that takes a lot of time but it’s not forced on you. There are a lot of people who put in a lot more time than I do!
Do you feel like you have experienced burnout at all or has it been pretty manageable?
I think it’s been manageable but there are times when I feel super tired but I don’t feel like stopping. There are so many people here who are dreaming in code! Even if you take a break, it’s still in your mind. I haven’t felt too burnt out, just tired, but it’s not unmanageable.
Do you think you will go back to college after Turing or will you go through the job search?
I think I’ll go through the job search and see where that takes me. If I feel that I need to know more then I’ll probably go back to school because I do like learning a lot. I think I’m just playing it by ear right now.
At the same time, I’d like to get a job and keep learning on my own because from what it seems like, I’ll never stop learning about programming because it’s always changing.
Would you recommend that other college students take the same route?
I think it was a better decision to come here. I think if I had stayed in school, I would regret it because I wasn’t totally sure what my major was anyway. Since I came here, I feel like it’s a community and we’re all learning together as opposed to going to college, where I was being taught. I’d recommend Turing to anybody who wanted to code.
Have they started talking about job placement in the first module yet at all?
I think we start thinking about it in the third module. I know some people that are towards the end of the third Module right now. They’re talking about jobs and starting the job search now.
It sounds like you’re having a great experience, but is there anything you'd change about Turing?
I don’t think there’s anything I’d change. Right now I feel like I’m learning a lot. We’re doing a lot and working really hard but I think that’s what I need to be doing right now.
Coding Bootcamps are intensive programs- some require an 80 hour per week commitment, and all demand undivided attention in the classroom. This structure may be necessary to learn a new skill in a short time, but it can also overwhelm students and in some cases, cause burnout.
Luckily, at Course Report, we get the opportunity to talk with alumni from coding bootcamps all over the world, and we always ask how they avoided burnout during their courses. We’ve compiled the top eight best pieces of advice for future students from alumni who have been through it before!Continue Reading →
Miriam Moser was an English major in college, but when she began coding HTML emails for a job in online fundraising, she realized how much she enjoyed coding. After trying out several online learning platforms and moving to Colorado, Miriam enrolled at 7-month software development school Turing. Now about one month into the course, Miriam tells us about learning under Jeff Casimir, what she looks forward to in upcoming learning modules, and support for women at Turing (hint: there’s no “mansplaining”!)
What did you study in college and how did you decide to start coding?
I was an English major in college, and after school, I had a lot of different jobs; I was even a chef at one point. At my last company, I started as the executive assistant but I was interested in marketing so I ended up moving into the creative department and copywriting emails and social media for digital campaigns.
My company needed somebody who could code mobile responsive emails so I taught myself how to do that and realized how much I enjoyed it. I began my journey learning to code from a variety of online platforms: Treehouse, Code School; I also started Tealeaf Academy which is an online bootcamp but that didn’t really work out.
What was your experience like with Tealeaf?
I made it about halfway through section one and then was totally lost so I asked for my money back and began looking at the in-person bootcamps. I would get stuck on something really simple like a syntax issue and post a question and it would take like an hour for a response. For every exercise at Tealeaf, we do about 10 exercises at Turing. The pace seems much better suited to non-geniuses.
Did you ever take a CS class in your undergrad?
No, I wasn’t interested in that at all at the time. I did take formal logic for fun, and that is applicable, despite being in the philosophy department, but in general I took as few math and science classes as possible.
Tell us about your research process once you decided that you needed an in-person bootcamp.
My husband and I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado in August. I started looking for programs that were local and it was just fortunate that Turing was here because there aren’t many programs like this in the country.
I was really choosing between Turing and gSchool. What sold me on Turing was the fact that it’s a nonprofit with a commitment to diversity.
I was originally looking at other bootcamps, but my husband is a software engineer and he was very skeptical that I could learn anything worthwhile in 9 to 12 weeks. His skepticism of the whole bootcamp idea made me look at more long term programs.
What was the application process like for you at Turing? Can you tell us about the interview?
I took a long time on the writing samples; It was kind of hard to know what they were looking for. I ended up writing about how to deal with certain email quirks in Google and Yahoo when you’re coding an email. I felt good about that but I’m also a perfectionist so that took me a while.
The logic problems were very much like the formal logic I took in college where you use diagrams and eliminate probabilities. I enjoy those kinds of puzzles so it was fun to do even though I was a little nervous.
During the in-person interview, I think the questions are geared more towards how willing you are to take feedback. I’m not sure exactly how they’re judging but I definitely couldn’t get through the problems perfectly in person without help. That didn’t matter as much as being willing to accept feedback.
How many people are in your cohort now?
There are 19 of us. We had 20 people at the start but then we had one person leave.
You mentioned that you were drawn to Turing because of the diversity. Do you feel like your cohort is diverse in terms of age, gender and race?
Compared to other cohorts at Turing we really aren’t. There are four women and we don’t really have many minorities. But the other cohorts are a lot more diverse so it’s not like a whitewashed environment. I think the next cohort is half women.
Do you feel particularly supported as a woman at Turing?
Yes! I’m treated like everybody else so I guess that’s the key. I feel like everybody solves problems and works with each other in the same way. I don’t get any mansplaining.
Who are your instructors right now?
Jeff just reworked the curriculum for module one so he’s doing a lot of the teaching now and he’s really awesome. Then we have Josh Mejia who is a more recent addition to the staff; and we occasionally get some of the other teachers coming in. It’s mostly Jeff and Josh right now.
What are you learning in Module One?
The first module is mostly about learning to work with logic. It’s not until the next module that we start building things normal people can interact with. We’ve been working a lot with figuring out how objects work with other objects, which is very challenging.
It’s mostly syntax and logic for the first three weeks, but it’s exciting to begin working with topics that you recognize - we’re beginning to interact with CSV files, which I used a lot in my nonprofit jobs.
What’s coming up in the next module?
In module two we begin learning Rails, and we actually build an interactive website. We’ll be doing a lot of CSS and web design.
One thing I really like about Turing is our “posses.” Every morning we meet with our posse, which consists of people from across different modules, and we work on logic problems together. You get to know what they’re doing and what’s in the modules to come.
Turing starts a new cohort every seven weeks. Is the space pretty packed with students?
Yep. Most of the modules have about 20 people (although one class only has 8). So it’s really easy to find someone that knows more than you to help you out – at least when you’re in module one!
Tell us about Jeff Casimir’s teaching style. Is it hands-on or hands-off and does it work with your learning style?
Jeff has a lot of experience in education, and he tends to explain things from a broader perspective before diving into the technical aspect of a topic. Before getting to the actual code, he’ll use the whiteboard to break down a problem into more visual components. He’ll then go to live coding to show us how he would approach it.
Jeff is great at teaching to all different kinds of learning styles. Some students need visual lessons; others need to be more interactive. I feel like he’s able to break complex topics down into small parts and not overwhelm us with an impossible amount of syntax or a pile of obscure computer science trivia.
How many hours a week are you spending on Turing right now?
Basically all my free time. I live about an hour north of Turing so I’m spending a lot of time commuting. I work at Turing, drive home, eat dinner, then keep working until 10 p.m. which is when I have to go to bed if I want to function the next day. I spend about one full weekend day and evenings working.
When I read about bootcamps before I started, it sounded overwhelming to work so intensively, but it’s not like doing college homework 16 hours a day; it’s much more interactive than that. I’m enjoying it a lot.
Do you get breaks between each module?
Yes, we get a one-week break.
Have you felt burned out at all in this first month?
In this first module we had a week on and then we had a week off for Christmas and we had a couple days for New Year’s off. In general I don’t feel burned out – I might in two weeks and I think I’ll be ready for a break. It’s mostly just exciting.
I think I definitely benefitted from all the things I did in Code School and Codeacademy because I’m not struggling as much with the concept of something like a loop. It’s probably beneficial to anyone that’s doing any kind of bootcamp to work on their own and get the real basics down, because I think struggling with that and trying to solve logic problems at the same time is really challenging. It was nice to have a running start and feel confident that I can do it.
Turing is not cheap, and Course Report is always getting questions about how to pay for bootcamps. How are you managing it?
Turing is expensive but if you already have a Mac laptop, you basically have to put $3800 down upfront and pay the rest when you get a job. I had the savings to pay the $3800 and my husband pays for our living and food expenses while I’m doing this.
If you don’t have a laptop, Turing will get one for you- in that case, the deposit is $5000. That’s definitely more accessible than $18,000 upfront!
Has Turing started talking about job placement at all in this first month?
A lot of the logic problems that we solve with our posse each morning come from job interview questions. By the time we’ve finished we’ll have had seven month’s experience answering those questions.
We haven’t actively started talking about resumes and interviewing yet but they do encourage us to go to the Denver Ruby meet-up and other places where we’ll meet potential employers. Jeff actually postponed our homework the other night and encouraged people to go. Turing is very much integrated into the Ruby community.
Do you know what type of job you want when you graduate? Or maybe you want to start your own company?
I definitely don’t want to start my own company. I want to work somewhere I can grow and be challenged by other people for a while. I’m a bit tied to Boulder because my husband and I just bought a house in the area. Fortunately there are a lot of tech companies in Boulder.
I’d prefer to work for a smaller company just because it seems you tend to learn more and do a larger variety of things at smaller companies than in a bigger company. But I don’t have anything specific in mind.
Are there things that you didn’t expect a lot at Turing or that you would change about your experience?
I was surprised at how much fun I’m having, honestly. I knew it was going to be challenging and I knew I liked logic but I was surprised at how much I really like learning programming. A lot of times you feel like hitting your head against a wall but then you have a breakthrough.
I think especially when you’re studying humanities, it’s really unclear what you’ve learned. But with coding, it’s neat to have a checklist of my progress.
Do you have any other advice for potential students?
I think most people who are applying to longer-form schools like Turing have done some kind of coding before but I would really recommend checking it out and making sure it’s something you actually like spending time with before you enroll. My advice is to get exposure, through Codeacademy or Learn Ruby the Hard Way, and make sure you actually enjoy spending time programming because that’s what makes working all these hours fun.
Josh Mejia is a true example of a bootcamp success story: when a traditional college education wasn't an option, Josh decided to shape his career by attending gSchool. When Jeff Casimir left gSchool to start Turing, Josh saw an opportunity to be involved in a new type of education. He is now a full-time instructor at Turing, and talks to us about what motivated him to be part of this community, how Turing adapts the curriculum to changing technology and learning styles, and the ideal Turing student.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
My background is actually non-traditional compared to most of our staff. I was a graduate of the first gSchool program in January of 2012, which Jeff was associated with in the beginning. Before that, I had some design and programming experience.
I was good at getting projects done but I didn’t really know how to program. I had some experience building Rails apps and things like that but it was more of a “copy and paste” approach. But I did know HTML so I wanted to expand those skills so that’s why I signed up for gSchool.
After gSchool I worked at a company in Denver that partners with energy companies to adjust the flow of electricity on the power grid using Ruby on Rails among other things. It was a really fun place to work and I got to solve challenging problems.
How did you get involved with Turing?
While working in Denver I was mentoring with Turing- actually gSchool before Turing started- and I really enjoyed it; even during my own experience through the program, I really liked helping other students out.
Did you get an undergrad degree?
No, I didn’t. Growing up, we were below the poverty line so going to college just didn’t seem like a possibility; I ended up working in construction for a long time and I was introduced to programming through some close friends who I played music with and I took a strong liking to it.
I’m very passionate about these kinds of programs for that reason. I feel that there are a lot of improvements that can be made to education. I enjoy having a part in reformation. Plus, I like teaching – it’s surprising how much I actually learn teaching.
Did you consider working with a different bootcamp or were you really drawn to Jeff Casimir and Turing?
Jeff and the staff here played a huge role because I got to see very closely how passionate they are and their drive. That was something I wanted to be around. I knew that if I had the opportunity to work with Jorge or Jeff, I would want to take the opportunity. It was a good fit and it seemed like the timing was right for it.
Having gone through gSchool, I have a very strong empathy for the students and what they’re going through and how to maximize their learning.
How many cohorts are going on at a time at Turing?
Do you teach one cohort at a time or are you teaching the same thing to the four classes?
It depends; every six-weeks-module, there’s a one-week break and we have a new class come in and another class graduates. At that point we’ll reshuffle things to see what can be tweaked and improved.
Right now I’m bouncing around between two of the cohorts.
Do you think that style is effective?
That becomes the question because for a staff it’s probably more efficient for us to focus on one cohort; but for the students there’s different learning styles.
If someone doesn’t learn from my particular teaching style for example, then for me to be with them the whole six weeks is probably not going to be effective. So we try to balance out the teachers’ time and also the learning styles.
Can you tell us how Turing iterates on the curriculum after each cohort? What goes into that process?
We’re definitely trying to keep up with new technologies and things that employers are asking about during interviews; that’s a very big driving factor. We get a sense of the skills that they’re looking for.
Additionally, we have our curriculum set but as things change we’ll present certain topics and we’ll find that the students have already approached these topics naturally through their projects, so we probably don’t need to spend time discussing them in the class unless there’s confusion about it.
Sometimes we’ll move lessons earlier in the program; it’s a constant juggle. When is the right time to teach something? If we teach it too soon, there’s no context for how to use it. But if we’re too late then the students have already seen it in a project. So it’s trying to find that balance, which is tricky.
Each class is different, so it's very much about trying to gauge the group, trying to figure out what’s appropriate for them at what time.
Since you teach full-time, do you have time for other projects or do you have time off?
That’s a really good question. We’ll usually have a couple of days off, and during that time I’ll work on things I want to work on.
The other thing we’re doing is we try to arrange for instructors to learn from other instructors. Each of the instructors have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s a good time to utilize each other’s knowledge. There are some things I’d like to teach but I don’t feel comfortable with right now so we’ll spend those off-weeks building sample apps as a team to try to improve each other’s skills.
Several of our instructors used to be teachers so they’ll teach pedagogy topics; I personally would not feel comfortable teaching something like that. It’s a great way to pick up on new skills.
Do you have a hand in the admissions process?
A little bit. It isn’t my primary role but I have sat in on some of the interviews and given my opinion. It’s not one of my main tasks.
Have you noticed an ideal type of student for Turing? What type of person have you found really excels in the class and vice versa?
That’s a tough question. I think one of the most important things is just having a very strong drive because it does take a lot of work to excel. Sometimes you just get a sense of a person’s drive by the types of questions that they ask; whether they like to figure things out on their own or be given an answer.
During the interview process I think we get a good sense of how a person thinks about a problem and the types of questions that they ask and whether their thought process is logical; does it follow a straight line or does it bounce around and is it hard to follow?
Are there technical requirements for Turing? Are you looking for people with a background in coding or technical experience?
No, not at all. Our interview process is not focused on technical skills, it’s focused on logic. The technical side of it can be taught but the logic side of it has to be there before we can teach that.
How many instructors are teaching at any time?
We’ve actually experimented a little bit with that recently and have had a couple of instructors in our classroom sessions. It’s worked out really well because we’ll do live coding in front of the class with two instructors.
The students seem to really like it because they get to see how two people working together might have different approaches but can come to a conclusion between the two. I think it’s actually a really cool exercise that I want to work in a little more.
Does Turing give pre-work and what does it look like?
I think we are leaning more towards pre-work now. One of the things we want them to do is work on typing because we spend so much time typing so we send them to Typing.io.
The other thing that we’ve been doing recently is ask them to work through the Pragmatic Studio’s Intro to Ruby.
Tell us about the curriculum and how the 7 months are broken down.
There are four modules. The first module is all Ruby. They’ll use Ruby to run reports on data from CSVs, and get the concepts of how you would structure a Ruby program. So the first portion is to get the broad concepts down that they’ll be using later in the program. They have to get to know it on a very intimate level.
The second module starts off with Sinatra and introduces them to Sequel. After that we get into the beginning Rails projects.
At the end of each module are there assessments? Can people pass or fail?
Yes. At the end of each module we have assessments. We have a certain rubric that we follow that basically tests where their skills should be at that point in the program. If they pass the assessment then obviously they move on.
If there are areas where they should have reached a certain point by the end of the module and they haven’t then we’ll ask them to repeat the previous module. Instead of falling behind and staying behind, this structure actually allows them to be the student that has the most experience or knowledge by repeating. It actually works really well because they end up teaching more and actually solidifies their knowledge.
What is your personal teaching style? How hands-on are you?
It’s interesting because before Turing I hadn’t really had much experience teaching groups. I was very involved in teaching small groups and individuals. I think that I work well in a smaller setting; that’s my strength. In a group setting, I think I’m pretty good at pinpointing whether people are following along and keeping up and where they’re struggling… it’s almost like having empathy for the audience.
But I think my strength is more so in the smaller setting. Some of the other teachers are very engaging in a large group.
Alex got her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and previously worked as a program manager for a manufacturing company. As she started to think about future projects to pursue, Alex knew she would need programming skills. After meeting Jeff Casimir at Turing, Alex was convinced. We talk to her about how she’s feeling after the first module, the support she’s seen for diversity at Turing, and some of the projects she’s already started working on.
What you were up to before you started at Turing?
Previously I worked as a program manager for a manufacturing company. I managed productivity projects across several plants, working with engineering and operations teams.
Does that Mechanical Engineering undergrad degree require any computer science classes?
It required a small amount. I took a few courses in C and C++ programming. I thought I’d never do anything related, but later realized that some of my future goals required knowledge of programming, so I came full circle.
What was that inspiration? What were those future goals?
I think eventually I’d like to start my own e-commerce business. In addition, my husband and I have some ideas for a few different products. An understanding of software is necessary in order to further develop and prototype these ideas.
Once you decided you wanted that career change, did you try online learning or Codecademy to get acquainted with coding?
I did a limited amount of practice on Codeacademy, but I knew this was the direction I wanted to go. I started looking at different computer science programs and thought about going back to school for my masters in computer science.
My husband was on a tour of Galvanize in downtown Denver and was told about gSchool, and encouraged me to look into it. The more I researched, the more I realized that a shorter program was the right path for me. So I looked into gSchool and my research led me to Turing.
Why did you choose Turing? What factors did you consider when you were looking at bootcamps?
I read a lot about Dev bootcamp and some of the shorter schools and immediately realized that those programs were not long enough for me. In order to work at a professional level, I knew it was going to take me longer than three months to develop and really master the necessary skills.
I went to a community night at Turing and I met Jeff, who was really cool. I really liked Turing’s emphasis on community, education and really teaching programming; the environment seemed like it was a good fit for me.
I think Jeff was what convinced me to apply. Not only does he have a great reputation within the industry, he’s very down to earth and really approachable. I thought, “these are the kind of people that I want to be around.” His desire to diversify the software industry was really cool as well.
What was the application process like for you?
The application itself was very intense; I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t even work that hard to get into undergrad!
What was so hard about it?
Coming in, I had no knowledge of writing for the web. The first part of the application is to provide a piece written in markdown format. Learning what “markdown” format was and then creating a writing sample was challenging.
The next section required you to create a video of yourself answering a few questions and then post it to YouTube. This was in addition to solving logic problems and completing an interview.
I expected to finish the application in a day, however it took me closer to two weeks to finish and feel confident about what I was submitting.
Did you do pre-work at Turing?
It was not required, but highly recommended. We did a Pragmatic Studio course which honestly was pretty awesome and prepared you well for the first module. While I did not complete the course, I think it would be much harder to get through the first module without doing at least a portion of it.
How many people are in your cohort now?
Do you find it to be a diverse cohort in terms of age and gender and race?
In webinars and interviews, Jeff seems really committed to diversifying technology and programming in general. Do you feel supported as a woman at Turing?
The atmosphere feels very inclusive to me. I was in HVAC manufacturing which is somewhat of a slow-moving industry. Most of the people I was working with before were older, white men: very little diversity, very few women.
Moving to Turing where there are 7 women in our class and people of various ethnicities and cultures feels very diverse. There is still a good majority of white males but I think in terms of the culture and being mindful of diversity and trying to be inclusive, it’s really great.
Did you feel like everyone was on the same technical level when you started?
Coming in, the technical skills in our cohort were all over the map. There are people in our class who have several degrees in computer science; then there were people who were previously teachers or who did something totally unrelated.
The curriculum is very good, so even if you didn’t have any experience before, it’s definitely possible to learn. I think the people with more experience did learn a little faster.
Tell us about the curriculum and how it’s broken into “modules?”
Each module is 6 weeks long and there are four modules.
The first module was pure Ruby. It was all about learning to program and how to think logically. The next module is Sinatra, so we’ll start to build web apps using Sinatra and then by the third module, we get into Rails.
Who is teaching the courses?
It varies. We have different instructors for every lesson. Jeff has only taught a few of our classes.
What do you think about that, having different instructors for different lessons?
I like it. I have my favorite instructors but Turing organizes it this way because they recognize that everyone has different learning styles. I think they try to rotate instructors in order to make sure that people have the opportunity to learn in the style they are best at.
How many hours a week are you spending on Turing?
Probably 55 to 60 hours a week. I got married earlier this year, so I try to make sure that I have a very good work-life balance. I will take one day per weekend off, and I make sure I have a few hours most evenings to spend with my husband.
In the first module did you ever feel burnout?
I think because I was really intentional about keeping work-life boundaries, I didn’t get burned out. In addition, Turing gives us a week off between each module and I think if we didn’t have this, over the long run I would get burned out. With a week off, I already feel refreshed and ready to go for the second module.
Is the curriculum project-based?
Most of what we do is project based. During the first module, we did three different projects. The first one was an individual project and the second two we had partners.
Are those assigned projects or do you make your own?
I don’t think you make your own projects until you get to the very last module. Right now, these are all assigned projects.
Can you tell us about one of those projects?
The last project we finished was called Sales Engine. Basically, you’re building out Active Record functionality from the ground up in Ruby.
For this project I had two other people working with me, which is great because you learn how to pair.
It’s really challenging having to coordinate using Github, making sure you commit your work regularly and resolve any conflicts in the code. I think building Active Record from scratch has been great- it’s a really cool feeling to grasp what you’re doing and what’s actually going on behind the scenes. I think all the projects are incremental projects that lead you to being able to understand and utilize all the tools that you need to be a good web developer.
Do you feel Turing puts an emphasis on job prep and job placement? Or is that something you haven’t touched on yet?
I think they really do. We haven’t directly talked about it yet, I believe that comes in future modules. Everyday, a half an hour before classes start, we solve warm-up problems. And a lot of those questions are problems that you would encounter during a technical interview, or things to get you thinking and preparing for job interviews.
Additionally, every Friday, Jeff brings in a guest speaker. Being able to hear other people’s stories of how they got started and the cool things that are happening within the industry is really great.
They also have lightning talks, where you have to give a 5-minute technical talk to your fellow students. It’s hard, especially for people who would rather be programming than talking, but developing those skills and being able to speak, especially about a technical topic, all goes into professional development.
Is there anything you want to add about Turing and your experience?
I can’t say enough about Turing. I think it’s really great and I would recommend it to everyone who’s interested. It’s a really cool place and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to attend.
Sara Simon was working in communications at a software development firm, but had no technical background when she applied to the Turing School in Denver, Colorado. She is now in her third module at Turing- we talk to Sara about her search for the right bootcamp, the Turing application, and get a peek at a project she developed while in the course.
What were you up to before you started at Turing?
Prior to Turing, I was working in communications at a small software development firm. I did a fair amount of technical writing—putting together manuals and help texts for our clients. I also ran the company's social media pages and took on a few big copywriting projects. As a former art school graduate and English major, nothing beat the fact that I had found a job that paid me to write about interesting things every day.
Little did I know I could find that same satisfaction writing code as well. After nearly a year of working right alongside software developers, they convinced me to take the leap down this path. I feel grateful for their encouragement and support every day.
Did you have a technical background before you applied?
Why did you choose Turing? What factors did you consider?
Oh, I did so much research. I made such a beautiful spreadsheet. Program length had a ton to do with my decision, as did instructor teaching experience, nonprofit status, program curriculum, commitment to diversity, and a salary guarantee. Turing won unquestionably on those factors alone. Still, I did some digging and asked around for more personal responses, and when nearly everyone I spoke with recommended Turing, I was sold.
What was the application like for you?
That was another huge win for Turing! The application was so much fun, and I loved that they required writing samples from all their applicants. The task was to explain a complicated topic in a clear way, so I broke out my inner English major and wrote about the Shakespearean sonnet. My iambic pentameter examples were all about Turing instructors. I remember being really nervous thatJorge’s name might actually be pronounced George, which would have thrown off the whole thing.
My interview was a mix of culture-fit questions and logic problems. I really appreciate that Turing takes a holistic approach to the application process. I certainly wouldn’t have been accepted had it been based on technical skills alone.
How many people are in your cohort?
I’m in the smallest class at Turing. Right now, we’re the Elite Eight. We’re fairly diverse across all boards. I love them all desperately.
Who are your instructors? What is the teaching style like and how does it work with your learning style?
Learning style is a tricky one for me to answer. I’ll be totally honest: Project-based learning is really difficult for me, and I’ve spent a significant chunk of my time at Turing trying to figure out why that is. I’m a book learner. I like systems. I learn best through clear explanations and exceptional examples. Show me something great, tell me why it’s great, then let me recreate it. No programming school I’ve found tailors to this kind of learning, though. Instead, they all boast about project-based learning. They attract people who like to get their hands dirty, who need to figure things out on their own, who find long lectures dry and tedious, who learn best by doing and by making.
Do I wonder whether programming schools are inadvertently discouraging learners like me from entering tech? Yes. Do I think programming schools will improve exponentially once they figure out how to support learners like me? Again, yes, but I’d be remiss to leave it at that.
At Turing, I’ve learned to feel comfortable swimming in this terrifying sea of project-based work. Undeniably, this is a thousand times more important than any lesson on any programming topic. Turing has encouraged me to take risks I wouldn’t otherwise have taken. It has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and to challenge my own doubts. Most importantly, whether I care for the style or not, Turing has prepared me to work right alongside the professionals. If I want to take the dive, I’ve got to learn to swim. Turing excels at this.
How many hours per week do you spend at Turing?
So many more than the average number I spent working on my undergrad honors thesis. Oops.
Do you feel burnout at all or do you ever get off track? How do you overcome this?
Programming is a quick and easy burnout, and seven months is a long time to be burnt out. Every ounce of success I've had is so entirely thanks to Turing’s schedule of six weeks on, one week off. Those intermission weeks are glorious. Future Turing students, do all your life chores during those intermission weeks. I mean, sleep twelve hours a day but also do all of your life chores.
Can you tell us about a project you worked on?
Sure! For my three-week solo project, I built a web application that tracks the geography of a user’s reading history. Basically, users can log in using OAuth for Twitter, list the books they’re reading, associate those books with the cities in which they are reading them, view their reading histories, share this all with their friends, and find libraries in their areas. I also built my own VPS for the project. It’s called Map My Reads and is still very much in an early stage. Be gentle. It’s up live but the production link might change, so find the latest link in the README here.
What are you up to now? Have you started to think about the job search?
I still have my fourth and final six-week module left, but I’ve definitely started the job search process. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to be doing, so I'm trying to get the ball rolling with plenty of conversations. I’m really just focused on finding a good fit team. Turing’s network is fantastic, and they’ve helped me reach out to a number of different companies.
Obviously connections are great, but I’ve also learned to never underestimate the power of a good cold email. I can’t even begin to count how many cool contacts I’ve made just by reaching out and expressing interest. It will always be my biggest piece of advice.
With a Political Science degree and a love for computers, Edgard Navarrete applied to Turing School in Colorado. We talk to Edgard about why he chose Turing, diversity in his cohort, and how he uses the Turing mentor network to get through tough challenges.
What were you doing before you started at Turing?
My dad owns a restaurant in Los Angeles so I was working with him on the weekends. I have a degree in Political Science form UCLA.
Did you have a technical background before you applied?
I really don't have a technical background but I have always loved computers. I had about a year of experience doing a lot of tutorials online like the Michael Hartl tutorial and stuff from teamtreehouse.com
Why did you choose Turing? Did you apply to any other bootcamps?
The length of the program did have a lot to do with it. I felt that to understand all the technologies associated with programming I would need at least six months. Something about learn how to code in two months doesn't seem right to me. I didn't apply to other programs, Turing has a flexible payment package if you get in so that was very helpful.
What was the application process like?
The process to get accepted is not the easiest but it isn't too tough. You make a video of yourself explaining why you want to learn programing. You do a logic test online and then you do a live logic test with an instructor.
What was your cohort like? Did you find diversity in age, race, gender etc? Did you feel like everyone was on the same level and able to learn together?
I was really happy with my classmates. There is a lot of diversity and many interesting backgrounds in class. People are so intelligent it's really cool. Most students are in the same level of understanding, practically beginners, there is always one of two students who are more advanced but they become a resource.
Who were your instructors? What was the teaching style like and how did it work with your learning style?
The instructors are great, they really know their stuff. I feel like the teaching style at Turing is constantly evolving at the end of the week there's a survey asking about what you liked and didn't like about the classes, if you articulate your point well enough you may see a change by the next week. Classes vary from code alongs, independent tutorials, group discussions, and partner pairing there's something for every style of learning.
Have you experienced burnout during your time at a bootcamp? How do you push through?
I haven't experienced burn out. The six month structure allows for intermission weeks between each module, so this allows you time to rest or to catch up with whatever topics you feel you may need work on.
Can you tell us about a time when you were challenged in the class? How did you succeed?
I wish I could tell you a secret technique to have an advantage, but really all you can do is work hard. When things get challenging I try everything that I can think of, and then reach out to other students or reach out to Turing's mentor network.
Tell us about a project you're proud of that you made during Turing.
I'm really proud of the project I'm working on right now with my classmates. The project is called Dinner Dash where we have to create a restaurant site from scratch, where users can select menu items, add them to their cart, and checkout. The site is built using ruby on rails.
Former teacher Emily Davis was looking for a career change and knew Jeff Casimir would be a great educator in her journey to code. She is now a student at Turing School in Colorado and talks to Course Report about the application process, how she pushes through burnout and challenges, and what's next for her!
What were you doing before you started at Turing?
Before Turing I was teaching seventh grade Language Arts. I taught for six years, and was on a quest for a way out for five of them.
Did you have a technical background before you applied?
I had almost zero applicable technical experience before applying to Turing. I took an HTML/CSS class at a local community college (less than fruitful), and had participated in one Railsbridge workshop.
Why did you choose Turing?
I applied to and was accepted to both gSchool & Turing. Ultimately I ended up choosing Turing for two reasons. First, I wanted to work with Jeff Casimir because his passion and excitement were contagious. Mostly though, I simply had more faith in their educational practices and thus my chances of finding success. To be honest the length of the program didn’t really play a role in my decision (gSchool is six months and Turing seven), but I did really like the idea of intermission weeks in between modules. I was right in my assumption that the intermission weeks offer a great opportunity for new knowledge to marinate and be absorbed.
What was the application and interview process like?
I really enjoyed the application process for Turing. The application itself involves a writing sample, a video response, and a few logic problems. The interview is equal parts get-to-know-you & get-to-know-how-you-think. The first half is simply a conversation about what you’ve been doing in life up to this point, how you discovered a desire to become a programmer, how you found Turing and why you think it’s the program for you. During the second half of the interview you solve a logic problem with your interviewer. The point of this is to discover a couple of things: 1. Can you think logically and problem solve? 2. Can you collaborate while problem solving?
What was your cohort like? Did you find diversity in age, race, gender etc?
I think my cohort (right now there are three) is the least diverse of the bunch. In the two other cohorts the diversity seems to be growing which is really exciting. My cohort ranges in age from 23 - 39, we’re mostly white, and there are three women. That being said, my cohort couldn’t have been more diverse in regards to our skill levels when we started out. I for one had never written any backend code, while Jonmichael had a bit of professional experience. Our cohort filled in the rest of the range. Somehow though we’ve all managed to learn together, collaborate on projects together, and help each other problem solve.
Who were your instructors? What was the teaching style like and how did it work with your learning style?
When I started Turing there were only three instructors and now there are five. Most of my instruction has come from the original three: Jeff Casimir, Josh Cheek, and Jorge Tellez. All the instructors have a different teaching style, but I learn well from each. I think the entire instructional team at Turing has worked really hard to fine tune the learning process for the students. Ultimately we learn by doing, which works best for me. I think the best example of that is Jorge’s teaching style. Jorge uses the workshop model a lot. We build a small piece together, he sends us off to build it independently or with a partner, then we come back together to build the next small piece, and he sends off again. I’m always amazed at how much I learn in a few hours with Jorge.
Have you experienced burnout during your time at a bootcamp? How do you push through?
I’m almost three quarters of the way through, and I’ve just started feeling really tired. I’ve been able to avoid burnout because I try to take off one full day each weekend. It’s easy to feel as though you must dedicate every waking moment to coding, but I’ve found that taking one day off makes me a far more productive programmer the other six days of the week.
Can you tell us about a time when you were challenged in the class? How did you succeed?
For me nothing was more challenging than the first project. I let myself become overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know, and I stupidly isolated myself instead of reaching out for help. Halfway through the project I finally reached out to peers and started collaborating on the project with them, and that was a major turning point for me. I also narrowed my scope of what I was trying to do. I was looking at the entire picture instead of the individual building blocks. Once I redirected my focus to each little block, I was able to find my way through the project and ended with a really successful final product.
Tell us about a project you're proud of that you made during Turing.
How does Turing approach job placement? When do they start focusing on it and how much emphasis is put on getting a job?
I haven’t gotten there just yet. The focus is on the learning during the first three modules. I do know that the third intermission week is dedicated to preparing for the job market.
Our webinar with Jeff Casimir of Turing School was so informative! As promised, you can watch and share the whole webinar on demand by following this link.Continue Reading →
Are you thinking about attending a developer training program? Jeff Casimir has trained thousands of aspiring developers and he knows what it takes to succeed at an intense training program. While a background in programming is undoubtedly helpful, you can make choices before and during the early weeks of the program that dramatically influence your outcomes. In this webinaar, we will discuss those techniques and skills and answer any questions you have!Continue Reading →
Turing is a seven-month, full-time training program that turns driven students into professional developers. For a limited time, the Course Report community is eligible for a $500 scholarship to Turing!Continue Reading →
Jeff Casimir is a well-known name in the bootcamp world; he worked with LivingSocial in 2012 to start the Hungry Academy, then went on to partner with Galvanize to create gSchool, and he's continuing the evolution with Turing, a 7-month coding school in Denver, Colorado. Jeff shares his thoughtful philosophies on education, the differences between gSchool and Turing, and how to best bump up his students' "happiness curves."
Tell us about your background and about all of the coding schools you’ve been involved with.
I started teaching in 2003 with Teach for America in D.C. In 2007, I co-founded a Middle School there in the city and was Vice Principal until 2009. Along the way, I taught programming and I ended up building applications to help run our school. I didn’t know anything about Lean Startup, but it was an accidental lean startup- on the first day of school, the app only recorded the kids’ names and addresses. Then I had to build class enrollments and build grading assignments. That’s where I learned a lot of hard lessons about building software. In 2009 I left K-12 to start Jumpstart Lab.
Most of Jumpstart Lab’s work over the next few years was corporate training, teaching one-two week classes within companies. Back at the middle school, we had this idea of the “happiness curve” that our students had some curve and we saw our work as bumping that curve. In doing corporate training, I didn’t feel that way anymore. I was working with people who already had excellent jobs; I wanted to get back to bumping the curves.
In late 2011, I talked to Chad Fowler, a friend who was, at the time, the VP of Technology at LivingSocial. The conversation was, “If you had really good, smart hardworking people, how long would it take to turn them into programmers?” I said 6 months, he said he had budget for 5 months and I said, “Okay, 5 months it is.”
We fired up Hungry Academy with LivingSocial. We had about 750 applicants for 24 slots and went through a very difficult process to pick that group. We worked really hard for 5 months. The anticipation going in was that LivingSocial was going to hire like 12 of the students out of the 24 – they ended up hiring all 24.
Hungry Academy was very successful by all metrics. It became clear at the end that the company was fighting for profitability and launching another large expensive program was not going to be in the cards. For Jumpstart Lab, we wanted to create something that was more sustainable and I decided to flip over towards a tuition-based model where students come to us.
Hungry Academy in my view proved the model of what we wanted to do. We knew that this was possible. We wanted to figure out now, how do we make a business that can last for 20, 40, 50 years?
Did you develop that full curriculum for Hungry Academy?
Yes. My co-teacher and I developed everything. We were able to leverage pieces that we had from Jumpstart Lab, but that was only 20-30% of what we needed for Hungry Academy. Hungry Academy was ‘just in time’ education. We were often writing the tutorials in the minutes before we would teach them. It was very difficult. I never want to teach my first class ever again, I’ll say that.
How did you end up partnering with Galvanize for gSchool?
I was nervous about funding and specifically, if people have to pay the full tuition upfront then that selects for only a subset of the population. That wasn’t broad enough for me. If we see the school as having a social justice mission, changing the happiness curve for people, then only accepting people who can pay full tuition up front is not good enough.
We needed a way to allow people to defer a chunk, and ideally, most of the tuition. But that, of course, creates huge cash flow problems. So that’s where I felt it would be smart to have a business partner. We partnered with Galvanize in Denver. We created gSchool as a business partnership then started taking applications. We got about 175 applications for the first class and picked 24, and started that in January of 2013.
One of the things that’s really awesome about our program is getting to see such diverse backgrounds. We’ve had bartenders and chemists and lawyers and finance people and warehouse managers…all over the map. Diversity in terms of race and gender, we still have a ways to go but in background and socioeconomic status, I think we’re doing really well.
After graduating the first class at gSchool, it became clear that the partnership with Galvanize was not going to be a long-term fit so we agreed to dissolve that, which was very challenging. Jumpstart Lab agreed to teach one more gSchool class so we taught the class from July to February of 2014. As of this week, 100% of them have accepted a job.
Does Turing have a money-back guarantee?
For Turing, we do have a guarantee that we’ve bumped up from the gSchool days. If you graduate from the program then we guarantee that we’ll help you find a job offer of at least $65K within three months or we’ll refund your tuition. You have to pass the final exam and meet attendance expectations in order to qualify.
NOTE: As of November 6, 2015, Turing no longer offers a Guarantee. You can read all about why in this blog post!
Why did you decide to give final exams?
I think particularly in private education, there are a lot of places that will give you a certificate and you can’t get a job. So clearly, that certificate wasn’t worth anything. I think over time ours will stand for something. It reminds me a little bit of the Super Bowl; my dad likes to tell a story about how he went to the first Super Bowl. It was an exhibition game; he got a free ticket on the radio because they were trying to fill the stands. Now that seems incredible.
That’s how I think of our certificate for Turing. Right now it doesn’t carry a lot of weight. And 10 years from now it’ll be like, “Oh, shit! You went to Turing? That’s awesome!”
Rachel Warbelow is on your Turing team, which we think is awesome. How did you two meet and what will Rachel be working on at Turing?
I have this belief that if you try to do the right things and you keep your eyes open, then good things will appear and you just have to grab them. I knew Rachel’s story from when she did SWOTbot. Before she went to Dev Bootcamp, we had emailed about her coming to our program, but the timing wasn’t going to work out. And then one day she appeared in my office and I knew we had to hire her.
The biggest downside to hiring Rachel is that I hate taking good people out of the classroom (Rachel was teaching at a school in Las Vegas). But I think the work that she’s going to do with us is still in the same vein of the work that she did in Las Vegas.
One of the things she’s really excited about is doing more K-12 work here in Denver and getting kids involved in programming, hopefully towards getting them interested in studying it further and even pursuing CS in college.
We’re starting to hear more about coding bootcamps being an alternative to college. What do you think about the college vs. bootcamp debate?
There are two memes that I get sick of. Number one is that everyone should start a business – because starting a business sucks. As a business owner, I will tell that to everyone I meet. And number two is hearing people say that college is “bullshit.”
The people in this business who say, “Oh, we’re disrupting college, college is bullshit…” are usually people who have been to college. It makes it easy to say what bullshit college is when you’ve got that Stanford degree in your back pocket.
I don’t want to disrupt college. I think students are racking up way too much debt, but college is a really valuable experience if you can do it.
gSchool was 6 months long, and Turing is 7 months long!
Hungry Academy was 5 months, gSchool 6 months, and Turing is 7 months. Will there be a next thing that’s 8? The answer is no.
Why is Turing 7 months long when these other programs are 9-12 weeks?
I tend to flip it around- why are other programs 9 weeks? I have very strong opinions about how to run education. In my view, when I look at other programs, I have been educating and running education longer and more intensely than anyone else so it never occurred to me to think about what they were doing. I presumed that I would have the most informed opinion. HA felt a little too short at 5 monts, gSchool needed more time for revisiting and personal projects, so now Turing is 7 months.
I think that’s the max a student can take. If Turing was 12 months, our students wouldn’t really learn more than what they learn at 7, they need to get out into the workforce.
How are the 7 months divided up?
It’s 24 weeks of content divided into four, 6-week classes, and then there’s an intermission week in between each class. That’s where it expands from the 24 weeks we ran with gSchool to the 27 weeks for Turing.
What are students doing during that intermission week?
I’m asking them to do what they need to do most. For some students, that means get out of the country because they need to renew some kind of visa. For some students, they need a break and they need to visit their significant others, and we have students that leave their kids and so forth and they need to get out of town and go see them. Some students need to revisit content. Some will use it as a time to work on a personal project.
Do you give assessments throughout the 7 months in addition to the final exam?
Yes. Each 6-week class is now pass or fail and you have to pass the exam at the end in order to move on to the next class. If you don’t pass then you have the option to repeat that class.
We’re staggering our start dates so students can drop back to the cohort behind them.
When we came up with that idea of doing staggering classes we were like, this is gonna be amazing! Somebody said to me “oh, like DevBootcamp?” I didn’t know that Dev Bootcamp was doing it already. I wish they had told me that idea. That’s the thing - Dev Bootcamp, Starter League, Flatiron, and us have more or less been in this game for the same amount of time, so are learning a lot of the same lessons.
Do you talk or collaborate with founders of other bootcamps?
We do. I’ve had a strong relationship with the team at Starter League since they got started. Flatiron School and I have a good relationship and I’ve given a guest talk to their students. I just spent a day at Dev Bootcamp Chicago a couple weeks ago.
Across different programs we have some fundamental differences of opinion about how programs should be structured and executed. There’s enough diversity across programs that they can each fit a different student profile. But there isn’t any other model that I’d rather have.
So you have about 25 students per class at Turing.
Yeah, though our first classes will probably be a bit small. It’s not acceptable to lower our admission standards to hit a number.
We’re making a really big promise to people to potentially quit a job, move, and commit a tremendous amount of time. If we don’t think they’re going to be really successful, it’d be fraudulent to let them into the program. We’ll have a class of 12 students before we’ll have a class where we knowingly admit people that we don’t believe are going to be successful.
What does a successful applicant for Turing look like?
There’s a certain amount of intangibility to it. I was listening to a podcast yesterday with Rafael Corales, a VC at Charles River Ventures, and he was saying that what he looks for in founders is a feeling of inevitable success in the person. Not in their skills, not in the company that they’re building, but in the person.
That’s really how I think about it; I just didn’t have the words until he said it.
We tend to see two groups of students. There are the students who went to college, or maybe started college and didn’t finish. Then they’ve been working on a job for a couple of years, it sucks, they’re earning not that much money, it’s not that stable; it tends to be 25 to 45K and it’s something they want to get out of. So becoming a developer means job stability, something where they can be creative and of course have a higher salary.
The second group are the traditional high achievement group where they went to college, mostly got a professional degree on top of that, got into the profession that they studied and realized they hate it. So they’re often earning over 150K, have a very stable job but they want to walk away from it because it’s not interesting.
The conversation around developer training tends to focus so much on salary. But, especially for that second group, salary isn’t the thing. We bring it back to that idea of the happiness curve. If you end up in a development job that you love, we’ve helped you bump your curve, regardless of salary.
Do you have a technical test that applicants take? Do people need to have some programming experience?
I don’t like pre-work and I don’t like taking people who are already programmers. When we were starting Hungry Academy, I thought a lot about this problem: How would we assess aptitude for programming for people who don’t know how to program?
I had a theory that what the LSAT tests for is very similar to what we need in programming. With the law, you have propositions, you have connections between laws but there’s still a lot of interpretation and fuzziness to it- and that’s really a lot like programming. I looked at the LSAT and specifically the LSAT “games” - I gave one of them to about 20 engineers, very top flight engineers and got back the same results from all of them. It was 5 questions and all of them got 4 or 5 out of 5 correct. Now that’s not a proof that people who do well on this are good at programming but it’s least a hypotheses that there’s some connection between these skills. So for our interview process, we basically paired with our applicants like we would pair program, and help them with some of the strategies and then see in the evaluation how they work with those strategies.
We have it broken down into a numeric metric system but the reality is, it’s a lot of gut and it’s looking for that inevitability of success. Given these hard problems, can you work with someone to get to what you need and can you do it effectively in a way that I want to work with you. We’re together all day, every day for 7 months. You’ve got to be a pretty interesting, cool, hygienic, nice, polite person to want to spend that much time together.
Is the application process different at Turing?
With Turing, we’re actually accepting a really high percentage of people that we interview. At gSchool, we were accepting about 1 out of 3. With Turing right now it’s about 2 out of 3, which is really interesting – and scary. The big change is that with Turing, we took part of that logic test and moved it into the front of the application; so you do your resume, biographical details, video, a writing sample and now also a logic test. If people fight through all those pieces they tend to be really committed and if they do well on that logic test, we’ve seen almost 100% of them do really well in the interview test.
Our funnel has a really sharp angle to it. A lot of people start the application, very few of them finish, but the ones who finish have a very high chance of getting in; which is awesome, it’s very efficient for us to be doing interviews and to be pulling 2 out of 3 people or half the people we interview; that’s amazing compared to the old stats.
Most colleges and programs are going to brag about what a low percentage of applicants they’re accepting. If you accept 5% of applicants that means you’re wasting a lot of time evaluating the other 95% of people. We shifted the challenge on to the student to make our processes more efficient. If we interview you, there’s a good chance you’ll get an invite.
What is your first cohort at Turing looking like? Is it mostly people from Denver?
I don’t have a clear picture because a lot of people are still confirming. In the past, about half of our students come from Colorado and half come from out of state. I think it’s advantageous to come from out of state because you don’t have the same distractions. You don’t have friends and soccer teams and all that kind of stuff; you’re able to just focus.
After the course, about half of students stay and about half leave. There’s a really high mix there where people that grew up here are like “see ya, I’m going to New York!” And the people that came from New York want to stay.
Will you accept students who aren’t interested in getting a job after Turing, but maybe want to start their own business?
Yeah, definitely. One of the things that was important for me to keep open with both gSchool and Turing was I didn’t want to get involved in placement fees and partner companies and all that stuff. I have some jokes about that I probably shouldn’t make in an interview but I think it’s just really wrong. I don’t like the incentives that it creates, where it’s like “I have a deal with this company so I’m going to push you towards this place, even though there’s this other company I know that would be a better fit.”
Do you suggest that graduates start a business?
I wanted to keep the door open for students to start their own business. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize it’s probably a bad idea. In our program, you pay tuition, you pay your cost of living and you have this opportunity cost of not working. That is going to burn up most anybody’s savings, friends and family, whatever it is.
You need to be ready for a new business to go for 6, 12 months without earning a dollar. The chances, after you’ve burned up all those savings, that you have more to fund a year of not earning any money are pretty low.
There isn’t a big rush in tech. Go work for somebody for two years, build up your experience, build up your network, build up your savings and then if you want to make the big leap and build something awesome, go do it. From the outside, there are a lot of people who make a lot of money by convincing developers that you have to hurry everything. That if you want to build this amazing product, you need our investment because there’s this other company and they’re going to be the first to market.
But over and over, we see that being first-to-market is a minor advantage. If you deliver a better product, you tend to win. So I tell our students, “You’ve got this idea – that’s cool. If you’re passionate about it, you’re going to defeat anybody else who tries to do it. So be patient and refine it and start to do the research, start to build the prototypes in the nights and weekends while somebody else is paying your rent and paying for your food and all that. Then, once you’re convinced of the inevitability of success, then jump out and do it. Don’t bankrupt yourself and don’t be compelled to take VC.”
What's the difference between gSchool and Turing?
We see it as an evolution. Hungry Academy was v1, gSchool v2, now Turing v3. From HA to gSchool we made a lot of improvements to the curriculum, but there were structural problems we couldn't fix.
Across our gSchool classes we saw a recurring problem. If you were in the bottom 25% of the class after four weeks, you were still in the bottom 25% at the end of 24 weeks. You could work super hard and make lots of progress, but people who made progress when you were struggling would always be ahead of you. It's difficult, psychologically, to put your heart into something, feel like you're making progress, but just see everyone else making faster progress.
And, for the other 75% of the students, it's tough on them too. They want to see you succeed, so they're spending time mentoring and pairing. Maybe we don't move as quickly as we could through the content. Everyone's worse off.
That's where the staggered cohorts and pass/fail classes come in. If you struggle through the first six weeks and repeat it, you've jumped from the bottom of your first cohort to probably the top of your new cohort. You're now in a position of succeeding, getting that psychological reinforcement, and enjoying your learning.
That's the big difference. We're looking to build a critical mass of learning. By the end of 2014 we expect to have 100 students across four running cohorts. In 2015 we'll layer on a design program and some short-term programs for experienced developers. I wouldn't be surprised if there are 200 students in the building by the end of 2015. The opportunities there for collaboration are really exciting. And, long run, that community combined with the learning outcomes for the students are what will set us apart.