TurnToTech offers full-time, 10 to 16-week mobile development and part-time, 30 to 36-week cyber security bootcamps based in New York, New York. TurnToTech aims to produce well-rounded software engineers with a deep understanding of mobile platforms, app development, and cyber security.
The bootcamp has a recommended 12 weeks of coursework and 4 weeks of internship but students who move faster can spend more time on their internship. In the mobile courses, students will learn fundamentals and understanding end-to-end software development, including requirements management, system design, architecture, development, testing and software versioning. In cyber security courses, students will learn the fundamentals of cyber security, Python, penetration testing, ethical hacking, risk management, and more powered by HackerUSA.
When it comes to finding a job after graduation, TurnToTech has relationships with a growing number of potential employers, hosts corporate and startup job fairs, and works to help students build their networks by hosting several tech events each month.
Recent TurnToTech News
- Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- How to Get Work Experience Before You Graduate from Coding Bootcamp
- Alumni Spotlight: Conor Sweeney from TurnToTech
New York City
We’ll start you off by teaching you programming fundamentals through a series of challenging practice problems. Then we’ll help you gain an in-depth understanding of object-oriented programming. Once you have a strong grasp of these important topics, you will move on to developing apps. At the completion of the course, you will have developed a strong skill set with a focus on: Android architecture; Fundamentals of UI/UX design on Android (including animation, user interaction, buttons, tabs, maps, etc.); Data: Storing data in the cloud using Parse as well as on the mobile device using SQLite; Interacting with web services and APIs such as social networks and review sites; Creating your own web services using Parse.com; Using Android device features like camera and GPS; Relatively advanced topics such as security, app performance, asynchronous programming, design patterns, and testing.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Yes, for beginners
Android Development Part-Time (Evenings)
At the end of the course, we want you to be able to program fluently in Java, use the Android tools with confidence and build fully functional Android apps of almost any complexity. For example, as part of our course, we will be building a camera app which supports filters, GPS, sharing over Facebook and storage of photos on Amazon S3 cloud – which is very similar in its features to the Instagram app. The course meets 8 weeks for two, 3 hour classes each week.
- Minimum Skill Level
Cyber Security Risk Management
Becoming a brilliant Cybersecurity Risk Manager is a sure-fire way to head down the ever-changing path of Cybersecurity and be successful. Following 3 main channels of analysis, assessment and mitigation, this 400 program has a total of 10 courses total to prepare you for the world of Cybersecurity. This program will leave you with extensive real-case studying to master the art of risk management in the world and make you an undoubtedly sought after candidate in the job market.
- Contingency Fee
- $250 Students who do not qualify for the extended course will be refunded $750 from the original $1,000 Pre-training fee.
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $17,000 for 360-hour extended course
- Lending partners available, including Skills Fund
- Payment Plan
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $17,000 for 360-hour extended course $18,000 Total fees
- Minimum Skill Level
- IT Managers CIO & CISO Advanced IT Consultants Risk Evaluation Employees
- Placement Test
We’ll start you off by teaching you programming fundamentals through a series of challenging practice problems. Then we’ll help you gain an in-depth understanding of object-oriented programming. Once you have a strong grasp of these important topics, you will move on to developing apps. At the completion of the course, you will have developed a strong skill set with a focus on: iOS architecture; Fundamentals of UI/UX design on iOS (animation, user interaction, buttons, tabs, maps, etc.); Storing data in the cloud using Parse as well as on the mobile device using Core Data and SQLite; Interacting with web services and APIs such as Facebook and Twitter; Creating your own web service using Parse.com; Using iOS device features like camera and GPS; Relatively advanced topics such as security, app performance, asynchronous programming, design patterns, and testing.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Beginners Welcome
- Prep Work
- Yes, for beginners
iOS Development with Swift Part-Time (Evenings)
At the end of the course, we want you to be able to program fluently in Swift, use the iOS tools with confidence and build fully functional iOS apps of almost any complexity. For example, as part of our course, we will be building a camera app which supports filters, GPS, sharing over Facebook and storage of photos on Amazon S3 cloud – which is very similar in its features to the Instagram app. The course meets 8 weeks for two, 3 hour classes each week.
- Minimum Skill Level
IT Professional with Python - Basic Cyber Security
The IT Professional Program is the perfect place to gain the foundation for an array of IT security skills and technologies. A 400-hour program, the IT Professional Program has six courses total that help prepare students for a variety of professions. By the end of this program, students will graduate with the knowledge required to successfully pass international certification exams and that which can help secure a cybersecurity career.
- Contingency Fee
- $250 Students who do not qualify for the extended course will be refunded $750 from the original $1,000 Pre-training fee.
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $12,000 for 360-hour extended course
- Lending partners available, including Skills Fund
- Payment Plan
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $12,000 for 360-hour extended course
- Minimum Skill Level
- Anyone from any background who wishes to join the cyber security industry.
- Placement Test
Professional Penetration Tester
Our Professional Penetration Tester - powered by HackerUSA program is your direct path to a cybersecurity career. This 400-hour program’s curriculum includes six courses, extensive hands-on skill building, and guided product training (full time; see the evening comparison below). The Cybersecurity Professional Penetration Tester students graduate with the sought after knowledge and tradecraft for immediate employment as tier 1+ security engineers, analysts, pen testers and consultants. The evolution from general IT to cybersecurity can take five to 10 years. The Professional Penetration Tester does it in as little as 10 weeks full time.
- Contingency Fee
- $250 Students who do not qualify for the extended course will be refunded $750 from the original $1,000 Pre-training fee.
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $17,000 for 360-hour extended course
- Lending partners available, including Skills Fund
- Payment Plan
- $1,000 for 40-hour Pre-Training course. $17,000 for 360-hour extended course $18,000 Total fees
- Minimum Skill Level
- Experienced IT Professionals
- Placement Test
$300 TurnToTech Scholarship
TurnToTech is a 16-week Mobile Bootcamp based in New York City that aims to produce well-rounded software engineers with a deep understanding of mobile platforms and app development. The Course Report community is now eligible for a $300 scholarship to Turn To Tech full-time bootcamps!
- Offer is only valid for new applicants to
- nbsp;Turn To Tech. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- This scholarship is for full-time bootcamps only
- Android Bootcamp (New York City)
- iOS Bootcamp (New York City)
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Our latest on TurnToTech
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.Continue Reading →
After earning his history degree from Columbia, Conor Sweeney was at a career crossroads. It seemed like none of his job applications were reaching recruiters, so after reading an article about coding bootcamps, he decided to give it a shot. TurnToTech in NYC was the best fit for his flexible learning needs and app building ambitions. Learn about Conor’s iOS bootcamp experience at TurnToTech and see how he created an interactive resume app that helped him land a mobile engineering job at Tremor Video!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What was your educational and career background before you decided to go to TurnToTech?
I majored in history at Columbia University in New York City, but I couldn't find a job. I applied to everything and hoped something would stick. You can do any career with a history major, but at the same time, it doesn’t prepare you to do anything specific. The problem was that every employer wants some level of experience before offering you a job. When I was applying to finance, advertising, and marketing roles, employers wanted to know why I wanted those roles. The truthful answer was I wasn't sure what I wanted to do because I hadn't tried anything.
So why did you end up at a coding bootcamp?
I never had a real job before attending TurnToTech. I worked briefly for the Yankees, but it was a summer job. I came across an article on coding bootcamps, I read it, and thought, “Maybe I should look into programming.” I worked through Khan Academy and discovered I had a knack for it. I really liked doing it, and realized it was something I could see myself doing for the foreseeable future. It got to a point where I decided to jump all in and start looking for coding bootcamps.
Did you use any other online resources to help you get a taste of coding?
I mostly used Khan Academy. I did a little bit of Codecademy too, but I liked Khan Academy's combination of video and assignments. Every day they have more available. Even now, if there's something new I'm looking to learn, Khan Academy is the first place I go.
When you were looking at coding bootcamps, had you already decided that you wanted to learn iOS development? When did that idea come about?
I was looking into iOS development because I saw the opportunity for growth in mobile. If you look around, everybody's on their phone now - we don't use our computers as much. iOS was a simple choice because I enjoy it and I am an iPhone user. I had also been building a million dollar mobile app idea in my head that I had to build. So instead of trying to find a developer to build it for me, I wanted to build it myself.
What stood out about TurnToTech as a mobile app development school?
What stood out about TurnToTech was the enrollment process, admissions, and the self-guided, self-paced coursework. I was very eager to get on with my life as I had spent months trying to find a job. I wanted to start right away. With most coding bootcamps, you have to wait for a class to open up and then the application process takes a while. TurnToTech jumped out at me because they give you the tools to be your own boss.
What was the TurnToTech application and interview process like for you?
There was an online form where you had to answer questions about your experience and why you liked programming. Then I got a phone call from Teddy Angelus, TurnToTech’s Head Career Counselor, and COO, inviting me in for an interview. In that interview, I met with Teddy, Oren Goldberg, the lead instructor, and Aditya Narayan, the CEO. We had a laid back conversation about my story, and why I wanted to learn to code.
Do you have any tips on how to ace the TurnToTech interview?
Show passion. TurnToTech wants people who love programming. This would be my advice for people in job interviews too – people want to see that you love what you're doing, not that you want to be a programmer because you want to make a lot of money and buy a boat! Nobody wants to hear that.
How many people were in your cohort? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
There were about 30 students. Everybody works on their own, so you can be as social or as quiet as you want. It helps to be friendly because sometimes the instructors are busy and a student who is a week ahead of you (one week might as well be years ahead), can help you. The cohort was very diverse. There was a strong amount of males, white and Asian, but there was a definite effort to reach out to and include minority groups.
TurnToTech has a unique teaching style– could you describe that teaching style and share a typical day?
The instructors give you coding assignments, and you work at your own pace. The instructors are there to help you through when you hit a wall, and man, do you hit a lot of walls, especially early on. In theory, the assignments are things you could do on your own at home, except there were things that I would have had no idea how to do no matter how much I tried reading. The documentation for certain things is far too dense and there's a steep learning curve.
Did the flexible learning environment work best for you?
I’ve always said this about my education at Columbia University- they taught me how to think. Everything I learned was based on a way of thinking and a way of learning. TurnToTech did something similar. They put the training wheels on at first, then they want to see you do it on your own because someday you'll be working in an office and you won't have somebody to call over and ask. You have to figure out how to Google the right thing, read the right documentation, and figure it out on your own.
Did you have a favorite project that you worked on at TurnToTech?
There was a project I liked that involved using the cloud. The cloud really interests me. All of a sudden I felt like I was making something really useful because it was globally connected. Most of the assignments are meant to simulate a real-life work environment. For instance, for the cloud-based assignment, they gave us an app that already functioned. The app was already built with Amazon Web Services, and we had to recode it. Switching servers is a project that you could do in the real world, so it’s a great way to learn.
After I graduated, I continued to work on projects on my own. Part of the reason I went to TurnToTech was because of my billion dollar app idea. My first app was called toPic! which is basically Instagram with Tinder swipe cards. I spent about a month building that right after TurnToTech as a way to test my own skills. It's live on the App Store and has been downloaded about 80 times. It’s probably the most complex app I’ve ever built, and the one I spent the most amount of time on. It was a huge learning curve to do something to completion like that.
I now have about five apps on the App Store. I created my big App Store seller, Viral Hire, because I was struggling to get job interviews. It’s an app version of my resume.
Tell us about your app Viral Hire!
I first tried to just put my resume on the App Store, but Apple wouldn't let me, so I had to grow the concept. As it grew, it became more complex. There are games, a job poster creator, there's a picture of me which you can add stickers to, and then post social media. I also have a celebrity endorsement section which is pictures of me with random celebrities I've met throughout my life.
I came up with the idea after reading an article about creative resumes that got interviews. I read through it and I had an ‘Aha’ moment. I'm thought, "Wait a second. I'm an iOS developer, my resume should be an app!" It seemed so obvious at the time. Ten hours later I had a working prototype with all my information on it and I'm shipping it to the App Store. It had to grow quite a bit for Apple to finally publish it; I got rejected for about two months.
What was your job search like after TurnToTech?
I stapled fliers for Viral Hire all over New York City, trying to get people to use and view it. It didn't quite work out. I was sending that flier in lieu of a traditional resume and every so often, I got an interview for something that I was severely underqualified for. People appreciated my app, but couldn't hire me due to my lack of experience.
My next step was building an app for a wrestling charity called Beat the Streets in New York. I was a college wrestler and I coach there occasionally, so I offered to build the app for free. I learned that people want to see real work on your resume. The sad truth about apps is that you can make your own look great, but nobody really cares about it unless you're being hired to do it. I was trying to make opportunities for myself to convey real work experience.
At that point, I had just finished interviewing with Google, but I didn't get the job. I made it to the last round.
What job prep or career help did TurnToTech give?
The internship is the biggest thing, but I opted out of that opportunity because I wanted to start working. It gives you real work experience for people to sell to potential employers. Teddy and Aditya were always there with great job advice, and practice interviews. When I was interviewing with Google, they set me up with everyone they knew at Google. Aditya also put me through a practice whiteboard interview to give me a taste of what I’d be doing. I'd never done a whiteboard interview before that.
Tell me about the transition to Tremor Video- what are you working on?
My father had a friend who worked at Tremor Video. I looked at their careers page and they had a mobile developer position open so I applied. All of my interviews were remote, as my job is in San Francisco. I had two programming interviews with a Google Doc and two culture fit phone calls where they asked questions like "how did you get into programming?” Nothing too intense.
During my interview process, I really liked the people I talked to and I liked the products. I am now the iOS Mobile Software Engineer and I’ve discovered that I can make an impact on something really big. Tremor Video is an iOS software development kit (SDK) and it's probably somewhere in your iPhone. Our publishers include ABC, BuzzFeed, and Bloomberg. Whenever you get a popup ad on those apps, you can blame me.
So you’re three months into the new job. How has your ramp up period been?
I have a great boss who I would call my mentor. She works on the iOS SDK with me. She's always there for me when I have questions. She started me out a little slow, but you'd be amazed at how much code it takes to create a simple pop-up ad. I’ve learned that dealing with other people's code can be infinitely more difficult than writing your own, because you have no idea where anything is.
Are you using the same technologies that you learned at TurnToTech? Is there something new that you've learned since graduating?
I’m learning a lot of new skills. Everything I write is in Objective-C. Older companies and bigger companies tend to use Objective-C over Swift. Swift is always changing, so Objective-C is best when you value efficiency over the speed of development. The ability to teach myself anything new is the biggest value I got from TurnToTech. They push you in the deep end so you have to figure out how to swim on your own.
It sounds like TurnToTech was the right choice for you, but what's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a mobile developer?
The hardest part for me was getting job interviews. Even though there is a very high demand for developers, everybody is skeptical about hiring a newly trained developer. There's also a bit of discrimination against coding bootcamps – many employers want computer science graduates. I actually went back to Colombia and took a Data Structures in Java class and I found that recruiters and interviewers would often focus on that more than my coding bootcamp experience.
How are you enjoying the tech scene in San Francisco? Are you still involved with TurnToTech alumni?
The tech scene is definitely stronger here in San Francisco. Everyone I’ve met in San Francisco works in tech or finance. There might be just as much tech in New York, but it's a bigger city, so it doesn't stand out as much. I always refer interested people to Teddy if they have questions about TurnToTech or coding bootcamps
What advice do you have for people making a career change and thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?
I would advise anyone to make sure that coding is right for them. One thing I really liked about programming was that I could try it out on Khan Academy before just diving in. There are a lot of people who might say, "All right. Let's just go. I want to do this because it's a fancy career move." Don't do that. There are so many free tools for you to dabble with. Get a taste for it before you commit to it.
There’s something about a good mobile app that just helps you throughout the day– be it your Linkedin, Google maps, CNN, Nike+ Training, or ESPN app– we depend on our smartphones for a lot. Due to the global rise of smartphones and tablets, mobile apps can be the go-to source for information, entertainment, productivity, e-commerce, and more. By 2020, global mobile app store downloads will reach 288.4 billion! With the rise of mobile applications on the market, the demand for mobile software developers continues to grow. We thought it was only right to give you a breakdown of what it really takes to be a mobile applications developer. From educational requirements to general stats on the profession to the top mobile coding bootcamps around the world– read below for our Ultimate Guide to Mobile Development Bootcamps.Continue Reading →
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
4% of bootcampers learn to code in order to start their own business, and that includes Adam Kornfield– the CTO and co-founder of Baron Fig, a notebook company for thinkers. He chose to attend TurnToTech’s mobile development bootcamp in NYC, where he spent 3.5 days a week for 4.5 months learning the tech skills needed to build a mobile app for Baron Fig. Adam has a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering, yet his professional career was all about finances on Wall Street, so we chat about how he made the transition, the flexibility of TurnToTech, and how he’s using his new mobile development skills!
Tell us how your career in finance led to founding a company before TurnToTech.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to start a company, but I never knew what or how. I started making websites for local companies in high school, selling baseball cards, all sorts of things.
In college, I studied Business and Computer Science/Computer Engineering, which was interesting to me. Then I got a Master's in Computer Engineering. When I graduated, I didn't really want to work in a technical job. I wanted to go to Wall Street, so I took that track and worked as an analyst for a hedge fund. It worked out well because I had knowledge in both engineering and business, and both of those fields have their own mindsets and points of view. I worked in finance for seven years and really liked it because it was very intellectually stimulating, very interesting, and the pay was good.
What led you to get out of finance and into entrepreneurship?
I didn't feel like I was actually making anything. There were no tangible results of my efforts other than numbers on a screen.
During that time, I was very involved in Toastmasters, an international public speaking organization. I was the president of my local chapter for a year and one of the guys in the club invited me to a weekly startup entrepreneur meetup. I met Joey Cofone at the meetup, who is a friend of a friend (and now my business partner), when he was a freshman at the School of Visual Arts. We worked together on some small projects, and then he had an idea. He observed at Art School that everyone uses the same MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, but there was no standard in paper notebooks. There was an opportunity to make something better.
So we spent about six months in 2013 planning out our Confidant Hardcover Notebook for our company, Baron Fig. We raised over $160,000 in a 30-day Kickstarter campaign, which was a good start. In early 2014, we launched the full business, I left my job, and since then we've been very busy making new stationery products and new tools for thinkers.
So how did TurnToTech fit in that story? Since Baron Fig is a company selling physical products, why did you feel you needed to learn additional tech skills?
Good question. Thinkers don't just think in the paper notebook; they also want something digital. So we came out with two apps – a note taking app and a creative inspiration app – to complement our physical products.
I was really hacking my way through development (and not in a good way) to come up with new features. Everything I did was such a struggle and so difficult to learn. I looked at other apps for help because I really had no idea how they were doing it. I didn't have a good foundational knowledge of iOS development.
We tried to hire outside developers, but no one cared as much about our product and our apps as we did. After six months, it became clear that an intensive coding bootcamp would be a good idea. Joey is a very talented graphic designer, and product designer, and if I could actually build the digital products, then between the two of us, we could get a lot done.
What stood out about TurnToTech that convinced you to choose their bootcamp?
I was looking around on Course Report and Google for a mobile, specifically iOS, bootcamp. I found there were surprisingly few mobile iOS bootcamps around the country. Our studio is in New York, so I knew that staying in New York would make things substantially easier. I talked to half a dozen camps including Flatiron, General Assembly, and TurnToTech.
I really wanted to do most of my education in Swift – it had struck Joey and me that Swift was the way of the future. My goal was to probably spend 70-80% of my time building Swift projects, and then the remaining 20% or so on Objective-C, because I knew I had to be relatively proficient in it.
The other important factor to me was the time schedule. Most coding bootcamps are full-time, Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm. I couldn't commit to a full-time program because we had to run our business. TurnToTech is a self-directed program, which for me was fabulous. I absolutely loved it. I explained up front to Teddy and Oren, and the staff there, that I couldn’t be here every day.
I was very impressed with TurnToTech’s flexibility in how I could learn. I was one of their first full-time Swift students, and they were very interested in working with me. I liked their attitude, their style, and their message that they were excited to see students learn and grow.
Most coding bootcampers get jobs as junior developers when they graduate. Were you upfront with TurnToTech about starting a business?
Yeah. The minute I walked in the door, I showed them Baron Fig notebooks and told them about our plans for making note taking apps. I was upfront and asked, “are you guys interested in having me as a student?” I realized I wasn’t the traditional student, the person who just quit their job to do a career change, but I had my own needs and they got it. I felt comfortable right away, like we were on the same page.
What was the application and interview process like for you? Was there a coding challenge? Do you have any tips for our readers interested in TurnToTech?
It was pretty straightforward. I had already released one very basic app in the App Store. So I showed them that, discussed my experience, told them about some challenges I had with the code, what was good and bad, and that was basically my coding challenge. They make sure students are there for the right reasons, and that you are willing to work hard.
Do you feel like your learning experience at TurnToTech was tailored to your goals, even though you’re different than the typical student?
Yeah, absolutely. Choosing to learn mostly Swift was certainly no problem. It was all accepted out of the gate. So in the sense of learning the Swift, yes.
Also, Baron Fig as a company is very graphically intensive – our company, our brand – you can see that from our website and products. So I wanted to spend additional time on the way things looked and felt. I would spend a lot of time on “how can I add custom fonts? How can I round the corners? How can I work on animation? How can I draw?” And TurnToTech was very open to it.
There were some projects that I could tell would be more useful for me, so I’d spend more time asking the TurnToTech team more questions. I give them credit for dealing with all my questions- because I had a lot.
Tell us about the curriculum and teaching structure of TurnToTech.
Their curriculum is a series of projects that you primarily work through individually. The biggest difference I've seen between their curriculum and other coding bootcamps I've heard about, is its self-directed nature. At first, I was thrown off. Why would I want to go and sit by myself and work through projects? Why can't I just do that at home? But instead of sitting in lecture all day and then going home and doing homework, you basically do your homework and your projects during the day, with instructors and TAs there to help you.
I found a balance between going to an instructor too often when you get stuck, but also not waiting too long. You really want to challenge yourself, and push hard. Sometimes you're just not going to get a concept, and that's the time to say, "Hey, what do I not understand here? What's not working?" That’s when the answers are that much more valuable.
There are a good amount of lectures mixed into the program. They encourage you to go to a lot of meetups. New York is obviously a fantastic place for meeting other developers and learning as I really liked the curriculum. And the days that I was doing something else, where Baron Fig had meetings and I wasn't there, it didn't put me at a disadvantage.
What did you think of the TurnToTech teaching style- it sounds a bit different!
As I spent some time thinking about it, I realized that this is a significantly better way of learning because that's what will happen once I graduate – I’ll be working on projects by myself. I need to learn how to become resourceful, how to look things up, how to get answers, how to interpret instructions, and how to work hard at it.
I was very impressed with the curriculum. It didn't take a lot to understand how it fits together. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time on C programming. I did two weeks or so of Objective-C, and then got into actual projects. There is a lot of reading, whether it's Apple documentation or other sites. I remember thinking, “why am I paying to read Apple documentation?” But now I'm doing things on my own, I’ve realized how important that was; Apple documentation is a do or die.
What about your cohort? Did you have interactions with your cohort?
It's not necessarily a cohort. People start when they're ready to start since it's more of a self-directed basis. But it's actually a good thing because there are more experienced students ahead of you, and then once you're there for a while there are people who are newer than you. The people that are ahead can answer your questions. But conversely, you can also be a mentor or teacher yourself to the people who are newer and have questions. Having to formulate your answers forces you to think harder about it and actually helps teach yourself and clarify your own understanding.
Did you feel like you asked for help more from your classmates or from instructors?
I probably used the instructors more because if I had a problem, an instructor would get to the heart of the problem as quickly as possible. The instructor with a lot of experience is going to help you get there faster. Occasionally I'd ask other students.
One of best things about TurnToTech was the diversity of approaches to problems. I was curious, and sometimes I did things the wrong way, so I'd ask other students if I could look over their shoulder at what they're doing.
What was the general student:teacher ratio?
There were three instructors, and 3-5 TAs, depending on the day and the time. I think there were between 25 to 30 students in the classroom.
Were you able to work on Baron Fig projects, or did you have to work on TurnToTech projects?
No, I worked on TurnToTech projects. One instructor told me, "Don't go wandering off on your own path just because you want to do your own thing. We set up the curriculum in a certain way." I definitely took that to heart, and I would not recommend trying to work on your own project while you're doing the curriculum. The curriculum slowly introduces you to a lot of concepts one at a time and it's well thought out. You're paying to learn curriculum that TurnToTech has thought through over three years, so focus on that.
One of the first actual iOS projects is like a digital leash. You have a child and a parent leash, and you have to detect the location with GPS and then communicate with the server to find out where the child is. You learn about third party integration with Google Maps and how to connect with Facebook.
Now that you’ve graduated, can you see that what you learned at TurnToTech has improved the Baron Fig product?
I did spend more time on aspects of projects that I knew would be important for the future of Baron Fig. For example, setting up a server using Swift on the back end and setting up Amazon Web Server instance and deploying it.
My favorite project at TurnToTech was also probably the most difficult. It is a Goliath of a project called Nav Control that uses all of the fundamental building blocks of iOS – table views, segues between view controllers, buttons, and using different states.
Was it fun? No. But when I started working on an app for Baron Fig, it was shocking how many similarities there were between that project and actually putting a real app live in the App Store. It was excellent preparation.
As an entrepreneur, are you glad you made the decision to attend TurnToTech?
Yeah, absolutely. TurnToTech teaches you the basics. They get you started, and teach you how to learn, which is the most important thing. They can't teach you everything in four months, so I've had to learn a ton of things afterwards that are specific to Baron Fig. TurnToTech teaches you the building blocks of almost every app you’ll make. I think TurnToTech does a great job of teaching you the fundamentals and then you can teach yourself.
How do you spend most of your time now as a CTO of Baron Fig? How large is your dev team? What does a typical day look like?
Our business is very diverse; we make notebooks, planners, pens, and pencils. We fulfill corporate projects for custom notebooks, but we’re also in 60-70 independent bookstores around the country.
My time is split in a lot of ways, and that's a challenge. Partly, I’m actually sitting down writing code. Then I also help our COO with the production side of the business. I talk with my partner Joey about our product release schedule, strategy, our new email that's coming out, and testing our website. I also deal with our finances, trademarks, etc.
We're continuing to work on a note taking app, which takes a chunk of my time and we have a web developer here who I work with on new features for the website.
How do you stay involved with TurnToTech? Do you mentor other entrepreneurs?
Yeah. I really like their involvement with community and hosting events, bringing speakers in. I've been to a few meetups in their classroom, and it's really helpful to go and talk to people and see what they're saying, what can I learn. They've got a community message pool where they send lots of events and happenings going on in New York. That's very helpful.
There are also a handful of alumni with whom I keep in touch who are all helpful. We are all working on difficult problems so it's useful getting feedback from others.
Since I’ve graduated, I’ve learned that it's very important to build your network of resources, which include the graduates of your coding program and instructors, but also your community at large. I've been to a lot of meetups here in New York, and people are generally happy to help.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are considering a coding bootcamp? Would you suggest it?
If you're serious about starting a business and you really want to build your own app, then a coding bootcamp is the best way to do it. You could hire other developers, but they're not going to care as much as you do. Plus, they’ll be way more expensive than doing it yourself. If you want to do things right, and actually get them done, do it yourself. Then in the future, you can hire other people once the business starts working.
A coding bootcamp also teaches you to speak the same language with other developers. As a business, it’s helpful to cultivate a strong culture, and if your plan is to hire a technical team, then that’s really important.
But be prepared: it's difficult. If you're running a business at the same time you're doing the coding bootcamp, it's hard. I was lucky to have a partner, but it's a strain on everyone, so you’ve got to be prepared for that.
The most important thing by far is discipline. Continue to work through problems, make sure you understand it. If you're not learning it, figure out ways to learn it. Whether that's asking a classmate or an instructor or researching on your own. Push yourself and work hard.
Vivian shifted from the insurance industry to a mobile development bootcamp in 2014 when she attended TurnToTech’s 16-week iOS bootcamp in New York City. She’s now been a mobile developer at Hackerati for two years working with clients including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and Personal Blackbox. Vivian tells us how TurnToTech prepared her for the job hunt and introduced her to her employer, and all about life as a mobile developer.
What’s your background and why did you decide to go to TurnToTech?
I didn't major in computer science. I majored in math, physics, and French, and learned a little bit of coding back then. After college I spent the next couple of years in the insurance industry, where I also did a bit of coding.
I came to TurnToTech with quite a bit of coding experience. I really wanted to learn iOS because it was a new, exciting field. I originally thought I could learn iOS by myself, but that wasn't the optimal way. I had actually quit my job, and I had a runway of three-to-four months until I couldn't afford my mortgage anymore, that would have been a real disaster.
So I decided to learn with a bit more structure than just learning by myself. Showing up to a bootcamp every day really helped me get into the mindset to learn, got me out of the house and into a specific, focused location.
Why did you choose TurnToTech specifically over other coding bootcamps?
I visited TurnToTech’s campus to talk to their team, including the Lead Instructor Oren. I had a couple of different bootcamps lined up to talk to, but once I talked to Oren I knew TurnToTech was exactly what I wanted. I actually didn’t even need to talk to anybody else.
One of the things that appealed to me about TurnToTech was that it's more self-directed. I was scared that some of these bootcamps would be like college: sit in a lecture for an hour, then go home, do coursework, and come back and sit in a lecture for another hour. In general, I found it more helpful to do the practical work. A lot of the things I studied in college, I spent a lot of time on, but I didn't actually know how to do it.
But at TurnToTech, you come in every day, and you spend about 8 to 10 hours coding- and then you go home and get more experience. TurnToTech was more focused teaching us how to learn the answer. That approach is so useful, because in tech, there's a new technology to learn every day. And because I had so much practice teaching myself, it didn’t matter if I know a particular technology. I can quickly gain expertise to actually ace a language that I didn’t know before.
What motivated you to first quit your job to focus on coding?
I knew the tech industry was (and still is) a hot career choice, and more exciting than the insurance field. I worked at a very large insurance company where we used older systems and technology from the 1980's. I wanted a field where I could work at a very small company, do something innovative and even disruptive, and feel like my work was more meaningful. Plus, tech is also financially very rewarding.
What drew you to the iOS development bootcamp specifically?
It was mostly because it was new, and new to me. In hindsight, there are a lot of things I do like about it. But going into it, it I thought, “I know this is a hot area, I know the field is constantly changing,” so it was a chance to get in on the ground floor. Other alternatives would have been Android or web development. But the main reason why I didn’t choose Android is because I have an iPhone. I also think there are more opportunities in iOS.
There is also web development, which is very different from mobile, and I didn't really know that going into TurnToTech. I'm glad I did go into mobile instead of web because I feel like it's more my style and it's a more recent technology.
Did you at any point think about going back to college to learn how to code and do CS at college?
It's not that I didn't think of doing it, it's that going back to college would have been a huge waste of money. I think college serves its purpose. I don't think that purpose is necessarily to teach you to do professional work in a lot of cases.
There's the time cost of actually registering, going to this three-month thing, part-time or whatever it may be, and it becomes this extended affair. And fortunately, I realized, "Okay, I’ve quit my job and I only have three or four months to learn how to jump into this field- iOS mobile app development." I couldn't go back to school and get a master's degree in computer science in three months. Even if I had the opportunity to do that, it would have been, "I have to take all these student loans.” And I would have been paying for it for the next 10 years.
What was your cohort like at TurnToTech? How many people were there and was it was quite diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
When I started, there were 10 to 12 people. They have this big room, with lots of computers, and there's a small office space for administrative work. Then they have a large open area that is good for presentations.
From what I can remember it was actually a pretty diverse crowd. I think maybe 30 or 35 percent were women. It was a very diverse atmosphere. And of course, I'm LGBT so there's that as well. There were also really diverse skill sets. I remember one person was a bit older, and had experience running his own businesses. Another person was just out of college and realized this was a field they were interested in. I would say there were a lot of people that were quite a bit older.
How did you find the learning experience at TurnToTech?
One of the reasons I chose TurnToTech was because it exactly fit my own learning style. When I need to learn something, I need a problem to solve. It was task-based learning. There was a bit of a primer of "here's some stuff to do in computer science," but that only lasted a day or two, then we jumped straight into, "Put something on the iPhone that does X." Or one of the projects might be, "display a map where you have a search box, and you type in a search, then it goes to Yelp, and then it places a pin on the map." So you could search for pizza and it would place a pin on a pizza place.
So we were learning how to do front end skills, how to query third party API's, and how to store the data. All the tasks we covered are extremely common in every single app from the market. And there was a project event, for which I had to do a bit of back end work, which isn't necessarily part of the program. It was just insanely valuable for my career to be able to put up a server and be like, "Okay, I can construct a back end for what I'm doing now."
Did you have a particular favorite project that you worked on at TurnToTech?
Yeah. For the final project we were worked on a messaging app which was helpful for the experience of working on software, but my favorite project was when I was asked to do a code sample as part of a job interview.
An interviewer said to me, "Let me see your GitHub. Let me see some code written in front end." And I told them, "Oh no, I don't have a good code sample." It was on a Friday, and I said: "Let me get you something by Monday." And I spent Saturday and Sunday intensely coding, came back on Monday morning with a demonstration app, which was very design oriented. It was a bunch of parallaxing screens that as you scrolled down it did all this cool stuff with the text. At the end you could press a button, and it sent an email saying, "Hey, I like what you did.” It wasn't super practical, but from a design perspective it was something I was able to share with people and say, "Here's a complicated task that I've done in code, plus some beautiful animations."
I’m also telling that story because it literally helped me get the job that I have now. At the career fair at TurnToTech, I walked up to someone, showed them this animation demo, and they said, “Just come in for an interview right away." And it got me the job. If I hadn't gone to TurnToTech, I'm sure I wouldn't have gone to the career fair that got me the job. It was an environment where I could learn very easily, and after two months of learning iOS, I made this amazing code sample.
As well as that career fair, how else did TurnToTech prepare you for the job hunting process?
There was a lot of support. When I say, there are no lectures, I mean there are sometimes presentations that are maybe 30 to 40 minutes long. Almost every day there was a small stand-up where someone got up and presented some cool topic. And one popular topic was, "Here's an interview question that they're definitely going to ask you." Some students did interview practice with Oren, and said it was helpful. It was also helpful talking with my classmates about interviews they’d gone on and how difficult they were.
How hard was it to get interviews?
From my experience of interviewing for tech positions, I found there are a lot more opportunities compared with when I was interviewing for insurance positions a couple of years ago. It was really difficult to even get one interview, and suddenly in tech, if you have the right skills everyone wants to talk to you. I think most people in the program were able to find jobs pretty quickly.
How long did it take you to find a job?
I graduated in May of 2014 and I got officially hired in August. It was just over two months.
Wow. And what was the position that you got through the career fair?
It was working for Hackerati, which is a consulting firm. For the first project, I also had to go through an interview with Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr. I ended up spending 10 months there and did the interface for their Nick Jr. app. That's one of the projects I am most proud of, I think in my whole career.
Was that project all iOS?
It was an iOS app for iPad first, and then iPhone. And we were actually one of the first ones to launch on Apple Watch. So it's pretty cool.
What did you do after that?
The next project was at Viacom. It was MTV and Comedy Central. I did a lot of prototyping. After that, it was this company called Personal BlackBox, and we built an app for them, and some very lean startup style projects.
Some of those projects were like 10 months long as well, and some of them were a couple of months. But it’s always a very intense, "let's build this app and get it out the door type atmosphere." It's kind of cool.
So the apps you're building now, after two years, are they still mostly iOS or have you had to learn some new technologies along the way?
How it works in tech is that once you learn one programming language, you're pretty free to move around to other programming languages. I had some Java experience before I came to TurnToTech, and then I took an NYU course on programming for financial trading. There have also been opportunities where I could do Android work. I've done a few web projects. I would say a lot of that has been back end web because that also shares the server technology with iOS and other mobile apps. There's actually a pretty big divide in the skill sets needed for web and mobile. I would say my learning has mainly been focused on stuff like Scala, and I’ve had to do DevOps.
Do you feel you have reached the goal you set out for?
I think my goal of coming out of insurance was, "I want to do something that I'll have an impact, something that’s new and exciting." Then the projects I ended up doing definitely fulfilled that criterion.
What would you say is the most challenging thing about transitioning from insurance to a career as a developer?
I won't say it was challenging. It was very fun actually. I think you do need to put in some time to learn new things. I really enjoyed learning these new technologies. Sometimes there were moments where it's like, "Oh shit. This thing isn't working the way it should be. How the hell do I do this?" And there are moments where you get stuck for hours. It’s rare, but I've been stuck on some problems where I need the whole entire day to figure it out.
You have to be honest with yourself, and know when you run into challenges that you are capable of working through them, even sometimes without a manual or any specific instructions that tell you how to do something. It's almost like programming a VCR without instruction sometimes.
It's been about two years since you graduated from TurnToTech. Have you managed to stay in touch with TurnToTech and your fellow alumni?
The tech industry in New York is actually pretty close knit. You see people you know going to run an event. It's a community where there's a lot of interaction between different companies, and there's a lot of meetups. TurnToTech hosts a lot of meetups. I think Hackerati even hosted one event where we taught some stuff about Spark and Scala. I even ran into Oren a week and a half ago in the subway.
What advice do you have for someone who has decided to make a career change and is thinking about going to a coding bootcamp?
I would say definitely go to a bootcamp. Definitely, don't go back to college. Choose a bootcamp where you can do a lot of hands-on stuff.
I'd also say, don't get too caught up in having to prove that you're smart or analytical. Don’t think you can't learn to code because you're not analytical or because you don't drink a gallon of Mountain Dew in a basement.
I think one of the most important pieces of advice I could give is that it's a learned skill. There's no such thing as coding talent. There's no such thing as genius coders that didn't have to work at it. I think I have this problem too where I believe, "There are genius artists.” but, "No, they actually had to work their whole life practicing drawing." And coding is the same thing. When you get into the industry you're not going to be the best at everything, but that doesn't mean you're not a developer, and that doesn't mean you can't have a great career and eventually become that super genius programmer. It just takes time.
Will Larche didn’t follow the traditional path into iOS development, so he values the same diversity when hiring. As the lead iOS developer at startup Miner Labs, Will hired two TurnToTech grads for junior roles. He was even able to see the progression of a mentee from beginner to hireable after the bootcamp. Will has since moved on to Google, but he dives into his appreciation for the TurnToTech curriculum (which he now advises), why he believes mentorship is a must for junior devs, and why even those without a CS degree can land a dream job at Google.
So Will, you work at Google now, but when you hired TurnToTech students as a developer, you worked for Miner Labs. Tell us a bit about your role there!
Miner was a small, growing fashion e-commerce startup. I was brought on originally as the lead/only iOS engineer, and then was asked to stay on as the Chief Product Officer.
At it’s largest, Miner was 20 people, and 16 of them were tech (including the back-end team, front-end web team, and DevOps team).
How did you get connected with TurnToTech?
Having been a contractor and a freelancer for a long time, I had a few trusted recruiting companies that I reached out to when I needed to hire a developer. When I started hiring for Miner Labs, I was actually looking for a junior developer, which is rare and nice because you always get a bigger pool of applicants.
I saw a dozen applicants in a day, and John Bogil was one of two candidates who applied that really interested me. Because I was so impressed with him, I asked him where he learned mobile development, and he told me TurnToTech! In the past, I had bad experiences interviewing people from coding bootcamps, so I was intrigued with TurnToTech.
What was different about John than other coding bootcamp grads?
Other grads I interviewed weren't ready to work. They were still in the learning phase of their training. I've never been able to hire anyone from the other programs, and then this applicant came along, and I knew I needed to meet the team at TurnToTech to find out what they’re doing differently.
How many TurnToTech graduates did you actually end up hiring for Miner Labs?
Two. The second grad, Joel, actually came to me for mentorship and I suggested that he go to TurnToTech because I was impressed with John. Once he graduated, he came to work for me. I was really glad to see his progress because I thought that maybe John’s new dev abilities may have been a fluke, but seeing Joel’s progress proved that they were consistently graduating good developers.
It’s so cool that you got to see Joel’s progression from before TurnToTech to hiring him. Did he have any coding skills before?
He worked in construction and had no programming experience at all. I told him it would be smart to start by learning what programming is first, so he started with Codecademy, and then did TurnToTech. I saw him go from 0 to 60 in five months.
The longer format is honestly the key to their success. In programming, the amount of knowledge that you have to master is vast, and it never ends. People end up becoming specialists in one area or another, but nobody knows everything. In most bootcamps and courses, the class sticks to a schedule. If you're struggling with something one week, too bad: the whole class has to move on together. TurnToTech says, "Oh, you need another week working on X, Y, and Z. We'll totally help you and give you more attention. We won't let you move on until you have mastered it.”
Was it ever a concern for you that those new hires don't have that traditional Computer Science degree?
No. I also had an untraditional background; I’m now a CS Master’s candidate at NYU, but this is not what I got my undergrad degree in. iOS development is something I stumbled into years ago and realized it was a goldmine and a really great opportunity for anybody who wanted to better their life while still having fun and being creative. I've worked really hard to mentor people and bring them into the industry, and help them become engineers that can get good jobs.
Computer Science is not what an iOS developer does for a living. Computer science is, of course, the theory behind what we do, and it unleashes an understanding of what we do, but I compare it to color theory when you're a painter. It can help, and it can be a tool that you use, but a lot of people are painters without learning color theory.
It sounds like you are a great advocate for students who are trying to make a career change!
Yeah, I believe anybody can do it. Programming is not about smarts, and nobody should be bullied into thinking that they're not right for it. There's so much more diversity in the world than there is in the tech industry. We need more women and people of color. They may not see themselves represented in the pamphlets at Stanford University, but that's not really where people learn to program. You learn on your own by practicing, and you learn from a coding bootcamp.
As an employer, how do you approach that challenge of diversity and inclusivity in tech?
A big part is that I don't think everybody who wants to be an engineer studied it in school. Men may feel comfortable diving into CS, buying a book or watching videos online. Other people need to take a class, ask questions, get feedback, and deal with how uncomfortable and hard it is at first. I think the emergence of non-university education for engineering is probably why you'll be seeing more women in them.
Not everybody can learn the same way. We need more diversity in the way things are taught too.
Comparing other applicants that you interviewed from TurnToTech or other bootcamps, what stood out about those two candidates (John and Joel) that got them the job?
The reason I hired John was because his resume and final project were so well-tailored to iOS. What I mean by that is, iOS has a culture of excellence, beauty, design, and polish in the products that we build because it comes from Apple. At Google, I work in the design department and the look of a product is everything for us. Our users are putting their hands on top of the products we build.
John Bogil had a beautifully designed sample app and a beautiful resume, and since I was hiring for the front end, I said, "This guy obviously has the technical knowledge to build the app and he also understands the basics of good style."
Did you put them through a traditional technical interview? How did they do?
I didn't do whiteboarding in my interviews. I believe that it’s difficult to do any kind of technical interview with junior developers because juniors are essentially people who are admitting that they don't have prior experience. Instead, I try to get an idea of what they've learned, what technologies they’ve worked in, and then look at their code most importantly because that's where they're showing what they've learned.
I've been an iOS engineer for six years, and the interviews I've been on have been 30% computer science-based interviews, and then 70% engineering-based interviews. So for every interview I couldn't pass, there were 2 I could nail. If those computer science-based interviews haunt you, you can do what I did which is go back and learn that stuff later. After 6 years of engineering and 2 months of computer science classes, I was able to pass Google's engineering interviews.
As an employer at a smaller startup, how do you make sure your bootcamp grads are supported and continue learning?
No matter the size of the company, I still believe that effective management aligns the objective of the employees with the objective of the company. You need to find out what the employee wants and needs. If that means they need extra time practicing something, then you find opportunities for them that are worthwhile.
A junior developer should be able to do small things like clean up files; but then they’ll also be working on stuff that's new to them, and I'll be sitting right next to them to help them through it instead of them having to learn with a book or from a video online at home. Not every manager is going to care as much, but they should.
Since you have been on the curriculum board, what's been the biggest change that TurnToTech has made?
I definitely offered feedback and TurnToTech was receptive. There were a couple things that John and Joel had to learn on the job. So I let TurnToTech know we we're using certain techniques and tools, and it'd be great if they could incorporate that into the future curriculum.
The curriculum board is fairly new, but one of the things I brought up was that they weren't spending enough time teaching Blocks because we use them a ton, but TurnToTech grads seemed intimidated by them. So I made the suggestions to focus more time on Blocks.
TurnToTech is really doing it right, and that's why people succeed there.
In your role at Google, would you hire TurnToTech graduates in the future?
I'm not a hiring manager at Google, so I'm not in a position to do that. However, I would say that anyone who goes to TurnToTech, works hard at it and continues to push themselves and climb like I did, can end up at Google too, without a CS degree. I didn't think it was possible to work at a company like this, but they value people with different backgrounds.
So even if a bootcamp grad sees a job posting that says “4-year CS degree required,” you still recommend that they apply?
Every job I ever took said that in the job posting, because they're written by HR or written by someone who had a CS degree. However, iOS is incredibly important to any online company, and it’s very difficult to find a traditional CS degree engineer who does it. It’s not easy to hack on and it has to be aesthetically pretty.
What’s your advice to bootcamp grads choosing their first job?
First, no junior should take a job where they're the only iOS engineer. That's bad for their learning of course, but then it's also worse for the company because they cannot manage any expectations. They can't scope projects because they've never done it before.
If you went to a bootcamp, you’re likely a self-starter and you had the grit to get through a bootcamp. The first six months or year will be difficult; it makes no sense, and you want to quit all the time while you're having little tiny wins here and there. Hopefully you choose a company where there's a more senior engineer. If they don't want to talk to you or answer any questions for you, then it may not be the right position. At the same time, you also need to make it clear what you are interested in. You don't have to demand that you learn certain things, but if your manager knows then he or she will be more likely to give you an opportunity to learn.
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 →
Erica was a foreign language teacher and helped the school with their data analysis, when she realized she preferred the problem-solving aspect of data analysis more than teaching. She had lots of ideas for iPhone apps so enrolled in NYC-based TurnToTech’s iOS mobile development program. Erica tells us about how much she likes TurnToTech’s self-paced learning style, the similarities between learning foreign languages and programming languages, and her new job at XO Group!
What was your education and career background before you decided to go to TurnToTech?
My background is a bit crazy. I graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 2008, double majoring in Spanish and Italian. I then went to NYU for my masters in education because I originally wanted to be a teacher. While I was getting my masters, I also worked for NYU in the School of Medicine for the Emergency Department as a data analyst. I was there for about four years. Then I got my first job as a teacher after I graduated. I did that for a year, and didn't like it.
While I was teaching, I was also doing data analysis for the school, which was a charter school. Charter schools must present their data to secure funding so it's important to have their data ready and organized. I realized I actually liked doing that more than teaching, so I went back to data analysis. I got to the point where I wanted to do something bigger, and more difficult, and expand into programming. I took a coding course before TurnToTech, then decided to go into mobile.
Did you try to teach yourself code before you decided to do a course like TurnToTech?
Yes. At first, I was interested in front end. I have an art background from college, I minored in art studio so I thought I might like designing web pages and the artistic aspect of that. I did an online course at General Assembly, and really liked it, but I wanted to do more programming, and not just focus on UI. So I talked to my brother, who is a Rubyist, about the best way to learn back end programming. I worked on Coursera, Codecademy, and did a couple of classes in-person at General Assembly. I liked these classes but actually preferred the visual aspect of front-end. I decided to do mobile because it’s the best of both worlds.
What was the General Assembly course you took before you did TurnToTech?
I took a front end development course at General Assembly, which is another awesome school. I decided to do it online because I was pregnant with my son, and traveling back and forth to Manhattan didn't seem realistic. I really liked that course, but it was all HTML5 and CSS and I wanted to learn a bit more.
Did you look at other mobile development bootcamps or just TurnToTech?
Yes I did. Originally, when I was thinking about doing backend, I looked at quite a few. Then when I decided to do mobile, it really came down to only two bootcamps that I could find which had in-person Objective-C and Swift courses. It was TurntoTech and The Flatiron School.
What made you choose TurnToTech over the other ones?
The interview process mostly. When I was speaking to TurnToTech, I the people were very down to earth. I spoke to Teddy, and felt I could be really honest with him about where I started, how I've gotten to the point where I am, and he really liked my energy. I liked talking to him, and I mostly made the decision based on what he was telling me. He talked about the teaching style, and how after the program is complete, you still have a base where you can always come back to for support. It’s a life long learning model.
Why specifically did you want to learn mobile development?
First of all, I love my smartphone. I have over 200 apps on my phone that I use regularly. I often come up with ideas of different things that I can’t find in the App Store that I'd like to make. It made sense to me that mobile development would be a good fit if I had these ideas that I could turn into action. And on top of that, I really liked designing the frontend of what a viewer would see. I think I have a good eye for making the screens appealing and easy to navigate, but I also didn't want to just focus on that. I wanted to also code. That's why this was a good fit.
Which program are you taking at TurnToTech? Android, iOS, or both?
I'm doing iOS, and we’re mainly using Objective-C. We actually start off with C, and then move on to objective-C. I think this is really good because it gives you a foundation for how it works and the basis for the language.
They also offer an optional Swift course. It's 8 weeks long on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Many students have just taught themselves Swift, but I like to put it in my schedule so I have to commit time to it. If you're enrolled here, you can attend that course for free. They're also having a similar Android class for developers in September which I'll take after I finish the iOS program.
Why did you choose to just focus on iOS at this point?
I have an iPhone, so I figured it would be easier since I know what the UX expectations are. I'm familiar with a lot of the views and what they do, and I'll be able to potentially make some really great projects and put them on my phone which is really cool to think about. I do eventually want to learn how to design for Android as well.
Could you talk about how you paid for TurnToTech, whether you used financing or received a scholarship?
Absolutely. Another reason why I chose TurnToTech was it was a bit less expensive than other bootcamps. I think a lot of people think those programs where you defer payment until you get a job, and then pay a percentage, will work for them because they don't have the money upfront. Since we did have some savings, my husband and I ended up paying less than if we were to pay a percentage of my salary at the end.
They offer a $1,000 scholarship for women which helped a lot. I paid half when I enrolled. My husband is still working fulltime, so we saved up the other half and paid it halfway through the course.
You said you really enjoyed the interview process for TurnToTech. What was that like?
The first time you speak with TurnToTech, you come in and talk to Teddy in person – which I liked. A lot of other schools just send you a lot of information. You end up doing all that work and you’re not even sure if it's the right program for you. I liked that TurnToTech wasn't, "Oh, yeah, just read about our site online," it was more like, "Come in. Let's talk about it.”
In the first meeting, Teddy really wanted to meet me, introduce the program, learn about my background, and see if it’s the right fit for me. When I decided I did want to pursue this program, I met with one of the mobile development instructors, who basically gave me a verbal assessment. He asked me how I would do certain things, what I had done so far with coding and then assessed whether I understood the concepts. He tells you if what you know so far is enough to jump right in or if there is some pre-work that you should do.
What’s an example of a typical day for you at TurnToTech?
I come in at 8am and get to work pretty much right away. There's usually a project I'm already working on or if I need the next one, instructors will be sending it to me, and I will program all day until I leave at 5pm. The times that I stop are for lectures. TurnToTech has frequent computer science lectures, and every other Friday they have hackathons and computer science challenges. Those are really helpful. I usually just sit down on my computer, and I code, and I code, and I code until I get stuck. Then someone comes and helps.
It was a little hard to get used to in the beginning. I'm used to sitting in classrooms, having a teacher stand up the front, ask you a couple of questions from the textbook and move on. This is not like that. But now that I am in it, I feel this is the best way to learn how to program. They give you a project, and some resources, you try to figure it out on your own, and when you get stuck, there's always an instructor to help you. The program is at your own pace so whenever you finish one project, you move on to the next. Some take longer and some take a shorter time, depending on your skill set and what you put in. The program takes around four months to complete and I'm almost done.
What sort of projects are you working on? Are they group projects or individual projects?
Most of them are individual because it's a rolling admission, and the program is at your own pace. It would be difficult for them to have multiple people work on the same project because you start at different times. However, the students here are always willing to help one another, so that’s really great. We do pair programming where we ask others to help solve certain issues. Usually when that doesn't get us where we need to be, we get help from an instructor. Then for the hackathons, we work in groups and teams. For the computer science challenges we also work in groups. Then there are some people who finished the curriculum and are working on their own side projects with other students.
Was your background in foreign languages helpful when learning programming languages?
I think it was. When learning a foreign language, you have to have to put yourself out there, make mistakes and not be afraid of criticism. If you have that personality naturally, you learn a foreign language much more quickly. If you don't, you have to start trying to build it up because that's what will get you there. Nobody learned a foreign language by just sitting and being afraid to try it out. I would say that's definitely true of computer languages as well. You have to try to code and test, and test, and test. When it crashes, don't get frustrated.
Another way it's comparable is that I learned Spanish first, then I learned Italian. Because they're both latin-based languages, the structures were similar so I picked Italian up quickly. That's also true with computer languages. Once you know one really well, you can look at code for Python, or for C#, or for Swift and not know exactly what's in the text, but know exactly what it's doing. You could then rewrite it to Objective-C.
What’s the student to instructor ratio at TurnToTech?
There are three or four instructors here usually, and we're about 30 to 40 students on any given day. We use Slack to post when we need help. Instructors come and help you on a first come, first served basis. It usually takes about five minutes to get help. Most people really try to figure out the problem on their own until the point where they feel like they want to throw the computer out the window. That's when you ask for help.
Is TurnToTech a diverse environment in terms of gender, race, and background of the other students?
I think in terms of race and background it is. Gender, there's definitely a large gap there. There are about 40 students here and I’m one of four women. There are also two female employees who work here. But I would say it's pretty diverse in terms of age and race. There are students who are younger, straight out of college or maybe didn't go to college. There are students here who might have taken a break from their education or switched careers. Then there are people who are even older who maybe had a career for years then decided to start over.
What's your favorite project you've worked on at TurnToTech?
I really enjoy the hackathons in particular. Those are all different projects. It’s fun because you find out what you have to do that morning, then they split you into groups of four. You then have to make something in five hours so it gets pretty competitive. We all present on the big screen and then are judged on our product. Those are really fun because it pushes you to be creative on the spot. I've actually won every single one so far.
One of my favorite projects was Book-o-rama. We were put in a group and the theme was books and literature. We used the Google API to get different children's books into our app. We then animated those books so children could click on things for it to move in an interactive reading experience. That was fun. I thought of that app because I have a 17-month-old son, and I have an app on my phone that is similar. I have so many side project ideas, but I'm not really letting myself start on those until I'm done with the course.
How does TurnToTech prepare you for finding a job?
When I first got here they gave me a new template for my resume. They met with me and talked about things to add, and things to alter. Although I’d written a resume before and had a good track record with it; I'd never interviewed for a programmer position. It's very different. TurnToTech also helped rewrite my LinkedIn page, and I met with a friend of Teddy's who encouraged me to start a blog because it can help reach prospective employers. I've been blogging every week for a few months on my blog Always Googliando.
They also have somebody on staff who connects us with recruiters. Staff will make calls to recruiters to assist them in placing you in a role you are interested in. When you're done with the curriculum, the instructors hold mock interviews with you. Since the interview process is going to be different, they love to whiteboard and ask technical questions. TurnToTech staff will also talk with you about your past experience and have you showcase your skills.
So tell me about your new job!
The company is XO Group Inc which owns three magazines - The Knot, The Bump, and The Nest (Jennifer also works there). It's a family-centered product which I'm definitely passionate about, being a family person myself and I'm so excited about the culture of the company. My title is Associate iOS Engineer. They have about 70 engineers, but I'm the first junior iOS Engineer they've hired so I'm excited to join the team and learn from the higher-ups! I'll be pairing every day and growing in leaps and bounds. I start on August 1!
How did you find the job? What was the interview process like?
I actually met some XO engineers at the Gotham Ruby Conference (GORUCO). I was chatting with them and they said they're always looking for passionate iOS developers. They gave me their cards and I sent my cover letter and resume the next day.
I had a 30-minute phone interview with one of the managers at XO, about my background, how I got into mobile, what I've learned, and what my plans are, etc. Then I went to the office for a two-hour technical interview. I met with the same manager who quizzed me on iOS and CS knowledge. Then I met with a product manager who asked me about my experience working on a team and how I deal with conflict in the workplace. Lastly I paired for an hour with one of the senior iOS devs on the team. It was a really fun day. I've never said that about an interview before. Everyone was so upbeat and friendly and it was fun to chat and work with them.
What did you like best about TurnToTech and studying mobile development?
What advice do you have for someone who wants to completely change careers and go to a coding bootcamp?
I would definitely recommend it. It's a sacrifice. The course takes four months and it could take another month or two to find a job. It's a sacrifice my husband makes because we rarely see each other. I have to leave my apartment in Long Island early in the morning to get to Manhattan. Tuesdays and Thursday nights when I have Swift classes, I sleep in Manhattan at my brother’s so I can be at TurnToTech at 8am the next day. I don't get to see my son as often. It's really hard, but just having that conversation and realizing that it's just six months out of your life to drastically change your life. I'm going from a career that I didn't love, to something that I do love -and there's good money in this job. It's a secure choice to make for my family. Talk to people around you that care about you. Know that it's hard, but doable if you let people help you. It's worth the hard work.
John left the legal field to attend TurnToTech’s 16 week mobile bootcamp in New York City. The switch from paralegal to mobile developer was risky, but worth it. See how this career change helped John land a position at a startup (and at Viacom!), all while giving him the skills needed to create his own app.
What were you up to before you went to TurnToTech?
I was studying political science at SUNY Albany, in Upstate, New York and I was on the “law school” career path. I was studying for the LSAT and found myself working as a paralegal in the Financial District, Manhattan. I did that for a few months, and I absolutely hated it because I was just doing paperwork all day and not making any meaningful contribution or being challenged. I looked around for coding bootcamps, and then I finally found TurnToTech, and I loved it. TurnToTech is awesome.
Some bootcamps use LSAT style questions in their admissions tests. Did you notice any overlap between studying for the LSAT and studying at TurnToTech?
That's fairly accurate actually. My advice to others still considering law school is that if you want to save money and find a meaningful job where you learn everyday, come check out a coding bootcamp. The logic that you use to solve LSAT logic games is the same exact set of skills that you'll be using every single day in programming. Part of me still wants to go to law school, and I might pursue patent law one day.
What was your exposure to tech and coding in particular before TurnToTech? Did you take a computer science course in undergrad?
I did take Intro to Computer Science, but it was incredibly basic. There wasn't any actual coding or applied CS; it was a textbook computer science class. The intro course helped a little, because it's better than knowing nothing, but it's nowhere near enough to get a programming job on your own.
Before TurnToTech, had you tried Codecademy or any other online resources?
Codecademy was the only other exposure to coding I had. Actually, I did attend one hackathon at the beginning of my time at the law firm. That's when I fell in love with programming as a career. At the hackathon you had to sit there for 36 hours and code. And prior to that point, I wasn't sure if I could actually code for 12 hours a day or 8 hours a day, but I did and I loved it.
What was the research process like when you were choosing TurnToTech? Was it important to you that TurnToTech taught mobile development?
First, location was important. I would not have been able to attend a bootcamp outside of New York City. I checked out a few other bootcamps but liked the teaching style at TurnToTech the best.
At the time, I was playing around with web and mobile and eventually decided that I liked mobile development better because mobile hardware was just begining to show how promising it could be. So I was glad to see that TurnToTech offered mobile development.
Tell us about a typical day and how you worked with the students around you at TurnToTech.
There are no cohorts and the bootcamp is not lecture based, which is great. This is the first time I've been exposed to that style. You learn on your own pace which, for me, was a good thing. For example, the guy who sat next to me had started three weeks after me but completed the course two weeks before me. He had a background in engineering and I think that helped him.
TurnToTech is different than other coding bootcamps. It is mainly project based. There are some lectures where the lead instructor will take a group of us over to the whiteboard and do an lesson on a topic of common interest. In general you gauge your progress by your ability to deliver on the projects. There is a final project which is a fairly complex slow motion video app. And there are challenging quizzes to help you practice your coding skills and gauge your progress when it comes to interview readiness. They also do weekly code reviews which is a detailed walk-thru of your code. In terms of working with other students, we collaborated all the time but it happened more formally during the internship phase when I worked on an app called Up. In that internship, I also worked with a designer, a lead developer and the founder.
How do the instructors guide you through the curriculum?
That's a good question. There is a curriculum of 12 projects, and you complete one project after another and those projects ultimately serve as your portfolio. There was an instructor who was on deck all the time if you had questions and to help guide you through the curriculum. The projects were the curriculum.
Was the teaching style at TurnToTech different? Was it a shock to go from a university classroom to a coding bootcamp?
I wouldn't call it a shock, but I loved it. I honestly believe this is the future of education. It doesn't make sense to start 30 people at the same level and expect them to all advance at the same time. I've read that when you batch 30 kids together to learn mathematics at age 10, some of them will inevitably fall behind. And because they're all advancing at the same pace, once you fall behind you can never catch up again. The TurnToTech approach solves for that. In high school, I really didn't enjoy math but now I can look at a math problem, and I love it. And so I really believe that this individual style of learning is the future of education.
Can you tell us about a couple of the projects that you did throughout TurnToTech?
The second project that I did was an iOS app. If a child and parent both have iPhones, and the child's phone leaves a particular radius, then the parent is notified. It was really cool to actually create and see that working in real life where you can take the phone and walk 20 feet away from another phone and then all of a sudden the first phone starts buzzing. That was really cool.
I also worked on a side project where the iPhone uses your GPS location to show you who your congressmen are, and then from there you can call them, Tweet them, email them, etc. That's actually the project that I'm still working on now. My project even won best app at Mobile Week NYC 2016.
What did you do after graduating from TurnToTech?
I completed my last project in April 2015, and the first job that I landed was a contract position with a startup in SoHo. The application we were making was a retail shopping app called Miner. Users could purchase from multiple retailers and check out using one checkout experience. At that job, I worked in Objective-C and iOS. TurnToTech had helped me find the recruiter who put me in touch with this company.
How did you feel about that first job?
I was a little nervous, but I absolutely loved the startup culture. Going from a law firm where I used to wear a suit and tie every day and not smile at anybody, to working at a startup where I can wear jeans, a t-shirt and hang out all day (and work). It was awesome.
Now you’re working at Viacom, right? What’s your role at Viacom?
I'm an iOS developer. Viacom has many apps in the App Store globally, and every single one of those apps needs to do a similar set of tasks: they all need to collect analytics, and they all need to serve advertisements, and some additional functionality. So Viacom created this internal framework to manage those tasks, and I help maintain that framework.
What’s it like working at a small startup versus working as a developer at a huge company like Viacom. Would you recommend either for a bootcamp graduate?
Yeah, I would. It depends on the person and your own values. Viacom for example, is very relaxed, and if that's important to you, then that's great. I can leave at 5:30 every day, and it's not a problem. When I was at the startup, I was expected to work long hours. I did multiple overnights, and worked some incredible hours but at the same time I could come and go as I pleased. I spent my hours how I wanted, and it was casual while at Viacom it is a little more formal. There are many more layers of bureaucracy at Viacom. So any bootcamp grad will have to weigh the pros and cons.
Does Viacom have a good training system for you as a new hire?
Yeah. Viacom especially had a pretty good onboarding process. I've been assigned a senior engineer who I can ask questions to whenever I need, and that's great because he's taught me a lot.
What is the TurnToTech alumni support or network been like after you graduated?
It's great. There's a pretty strong network here. There's a few TurnToTech alumni who work at Viacom actually.
Can you tell us about the biggest challenge you faced during this career change?
Probably the hardest part but the most important part is that you have to change the way that you approach problems. Learning software engineering teaches you a better way to approach problems. It helps you to break down problems. Prior to software engineering, if I had faced a problem or even something trivial, I would’ve approached it far differently than I do today. So you change your style of thinking to be more mindful. You learn how to approach problems, how to break down problems, how to define problems. I can take those skills and apply it to other parts of my life. It’s the most valuable knowledge that I’ve gained from TurnToTech, and definitely the most challenging.
You said you were still working on the project that you built at TurnToTech. What's the plan for that? Are you working with other people in your class or is the app live?
Yeah, we are still working on that project. I met a web developer at TurnToTech who has a business development background. I told him about my idea, and we found a way to potentially monetize it. The app uses your location to show you who your elected officials are, and then makes it easy to connect with them via phone or social media. We think this software could be really valuable to advocacy groups such as the ACLU or Planned Parenthood Action. For example, if you care deeply about civil liberties like freedom of speech you could subscribe to recieve calls to action from the ACLU. The app is called Voices. Check it out at TryVoices.com.
We've been working on it for a few months. It's cool because TurnToTech is a really good networking environment. I'm always meeting new people who are interested or people who have connections to the political industry or the VC industry.
Do TurnToTech instructors still help you or do you get support in other ways?
I feel the full support of the whole team here. I have definitely come back to ask the instructors questions. They encourage you to come ask questions and get help if you’re stuck on any project. TurnToTech wants to see their graduates do well.
It sounds like TurnToTech was worth it for you. Is there anyone that you don't recommend TurnToTech for?
I would say if you can't make the time commitment, then don't do it. It is an 80-hour a week commitment. For me at least, I didn't have any back up plan. I didn't have another job lined up. I just left the law firm, and there was no way I could go back, so I gave it everything I had.
Any last thoughts about your experience with TurnToTech or your career change?
I’ll tell potential students that the best part is the one on one time they will get with the instructors. Their teaching style is Socratic. Sometimes, depending on the situation, if I ask them a question, they won't just give me the answer straight up. They will make me answer the question myself, and gradually lead me down the path to answering it myself. This is what I do as an engineer every day. I can't ping my senior engineer with questions all day. I have to figure it out for myself. I think that's part of the larger value at TurnToTech - it teaches you to be an independent learner.
TurnToTech is a mobile development bootcamp where students can choose to learn iOS or Android development. TurnToTech co-founder and CEO Aditya Narayan tells us about the student experience, what’s next for Mobile in 2016, and how to choose between iOS and Android.
Why does TurnToTech offer mobile (iOS and Android) bootcamps only when most others offer web?
First of all it’s based on our sense of the future of technology. Computing has gone mobile. Look at Facebook – for every $4 they made last quarter, $3 came from mobile. I believe this year more iPhones will be sold than Windows PC’s. And iPhones have only 20% of the world market. Hardware like CPUs and GPUs are getting cheaper and more ubiquitous. With 5G coming, mobile data speeds are getting even faster. Battery life of mobile devices is also improving constantly. There are even reports of smartphones under $5. So it’s quite obvious that computing is getting smaller and faster. It’s exciting to see how far this technology will go.
Whichever way you want to analyze it, mobile will be in demand for years and years to come. We want our students to be proficient in the right technology and equipped to deal with tomorrow’s tools and skills.
The second reason we are mobile focused is, for a beginner trying to get into technology now, mobile is less risky. If you learn Android or iOS, not only do you have a highly desired skill-set, you also compete with fewer experts in the market because mobile is still in its infancy compared to web development for larger screens.
And thirdly, we think developing apps for mobile is much more fun than most other forms of programming! You can of create games, and you get to play with a lot more technology than on a desktop computer – like the GPS, gyroscope, camera, touch screen, push notifications. Even cellular network speeds are getting close to wired speeds now.
When we say the word “mobile”, what are we talking about? Are we talking about iOS and Android, are we talking about mobile optimized web?
Mobile is a broad term. It means anything to do with an always-on, small mobile device that’s on the move – for now, smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. Only time will tell what it will mean tomorrow. Mobile also covers the mobile web but the biggest successes in mobile have been native mobile apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat.
When we talk about mobile, that also covers the enterprise side of things, like managing a variety of mobile devices in a large company, enforcing consistent security policies, etc. In other words, everything that’s happening post-PC has the catch-all term ‘mobile’.
When we say mobile development at TurnToTech, we are talking about ‘native’ app development for smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches.
When we hear the term native app vs. non-native app, what’s the difference between those?
Non-native apps are usually written to work on multiple platforms like iOS and Android at the same time. This isn’t a style that’s encouraged by Apple or Google but it’s still popular because it sounds attractive to write an app once and deploy to multiple platforms simultaneously. Non-native apps are also usually written in languages that are easier to handle for beginners.
Native apps are what you write in the platform’s native language, using the vendor’s approved development tools and languages. This means writing Android apps in Java and iOS apps in Swift or Objective-C. Native apps have to be written specifically for each platform – a native iOS app cannot run on Android or the other way around.
Our main goal is to get our students jobs and demand from employers is mainly for native app developers. That’s why we focus on native app development.
I get the question all the time “I’ve decided I want to learn mobile- should I learn iOS or Android?” How do you suggest somebody make that decision?
In many ways, because there is so much opportunity in mobile right now, it’s completely legitimate to go with what you like to use as a user . But you can be more analytical than that. If your aspirations tied to the international market – Android is a good option. They have around 80% of the world market. But if your focus is the U.S. market or early adopters of technology, or your goal is to app monetization through in-app purchases or paid apps – iOS is a better choice. And remember, in the U.S., iOS and Android have almost the same market share.
But it’s not a once in a lifetime decision. If you can write apps in iOS you can easily transition to the Android and vice versa. The underlying fundamentals are very similar.
Is one easier to learn than the other?
No. If somebody’s starting from scratch, Android or iOS should take roughly the same time to pick up. Most people don’t know this but there’s a remarkable level of design and architectural similarity between Java for Android apps and Objective-C for iOS apps.
iOS and Android are essentially solving the same problems – providing a good app store experience, good battery life, providing lots of sensors like gyroscope and GPS, fast networking, responsive touchscreens, asynchronous APIs, good development and debugging tools. It’s not just the languages but the underlying platforms are very similar too.
But here’s a sidebar to this: people with experience in Java are likely to find Android easier to get started with, and people with experience in C++ or C are likely to find iOS easier to pick up.
Why not just use cross-platform technology like PhoneGap, instead of deciding between iOS and Android?
I recommend native because that’s the official approach from Apple and Google.
With fast moving targets such as Android and iOS, I’d say there’s also a good chance of encountering the well-known ‘write once debug everywhere’ problem. This means even though your ‘non-native’ toolkit could give you that write once run anywhere app, in reality, you are debugging it on iOS and Android for a while before it can run properly.
Then there’s also the question of what we call ‘vendor risk’ – how well these third party tools are supported. What if they don’t fix their bugs on time? What if the vendor loses interest in those tools and moves on to other things? It could also be an open source effort and there you could have similar issues – the developers on that project could move on to more exciting projects.
Maybe someday the cross-platform technologies will be on par or better than native from both a technical and a product risk perspective, but for now, I think native is the way to go. But to give you a counter example, Java on the server-side is a great example of an extremely successful cross-platform technology. On the client-side, we have the usual web technologies, HTML and CSS which are great cross-platform technologies. But on mobile, they still have some catching up to do compared to native. So things can improve but I think it’s a few years away.
Do you think people should learn web development before they learn mobile? Or do you think mobile can be good first platform?
There’s a misconception, especially by more experienced non-mobile developers, that mobile is just a different skin on an application. That’s not true anymore. You don’t build a web app first, then add mobile. Even traditional tech companies like IBM have adopted a ‘mobile first’ slogan.
Here’s a simple Venn diagram with web on the left, mobile on the right and an intersection in the middle.
On the left, are technologies exclusive to web development and technologies for serving HTML. To the right are mobile languages and APIs for iOS or Android, and the tools used for apps. You would also get conceptual topics like GPS, power efficiency and unstable networks and so on. And in the middle would be the common stuff such as databases, cloud services, and security aspects.
As you can see, there’s a lot that’s common between web development and mobile development and a lot that’s fundamentally different – there’s an entire UX component that’s different in mobile. But the real difference is the focus, not so much the technology. So you can go from mobile to web or the other way.
Does TurnToTech accept complete beginners? How much experience should an applicant have before applying?
The key is for us to understand if applicants will be successful in a program like ours. That depends on their motivation level and aptitude, not necessarily their programming experience. Our application process is interactive. We talk one-on-one with everyone who applies. If there are areas that need improvement, we give them a chance to prepare.
Before they start however, every student needs to go through an assessment with an instructor who has the final word on whether they are accepted. The assessment covers a variety of topics including some essentials of programming.
As an example, one of our students who had never programmed before she joined TurnToTech, recently got a job as an Android developer before she finished the program. She had spent some time learning Ruby on Codecademy before applying, but we accepted her because she was extremely motivated. To us, stories like this prove how important it is not to take an auto-pilot approach to student acceptance.
How would you describe the mobile curriculum at TurnToTech?
We have a project-based curriculum and don’t have cohorts. This means when you come in, you start with a certain set of projects. There may be four or five people who start the course together but it could also be just one person starting on a given day. If someone has a little more experience they can move faster through the projects and move on to more advanced topics. Some people want to take a few extra days to read through the content before they move on to the next step, which is absolutely fine. Students also form informal groups between themselves depending on their learning style. Once they finish one project, they move on to the next, and the projects get harder in complexity as you go. This happens in a way that best works for every student. Throughout the process, students can get as much one-on-one time with our instructors as they want. This makes sure nobody is left behind and motivation levels are high.
There’s also a four-week mentor-assisted applied skills phase, which is similar to a traditional internship. Students get to spend time on a real project. This phase is 100% educational by design and you get one-on-one time as usual with instructors. You learn some really practical things like working in a group, using tools professionals use, how to wrap your head around code written by other developers, and debugging problems that were left behind by someone else. This phase prepares you for the real world. And usually during this phase, you are actively interviewing, tweaking your online profiles and sharpening your interview skills.
Our present approach at TurnToTech is the closest we’ve ever come to providing ‘personalized education’ for every student.
What have you noticed about jobs in mobile and what types of companies are hiring from TurnToTech specifically?
We see a lot more startups looking for mobile developers. They are startups making all kinds of apps – for productivity, e-commerce, music, social media, or instant messaging. These are not just small startups. They could be well-funded big startups or well-established companies.
Mobile is a relatively new thing in larger, more established companies. They will get there – I’m in touch with a lot of top executives at large companies. They’re all actively pursuing mobile apps, they’re hiring developers and they’re actively budgeting for more mobile projects.
How about consultancies or agencies? Do you get a lot of those types of employers who want to hire from TurnToTech?
Definitely. We work with employers from dev shops for a good reason. Large companies that haven’t yet built internal mobile development teams want to experiment first. It’s probably not a coincidence that several of our grads work for one of the largest media companies in the world – some have been hired directly and some through dev shops. Wherever there’s mobile development activity, there’s a good chance you’ll find someone from TurnToTech.
In 2014, Swift was a pretty big announcement and we saw bootcamps adapt to that, and start adding Swift to the curriculum. What do you see as the biggest trends in 2016?
I believe the biggest thing for 2016 will be mobile security. Mobile development is on the rise, and there will be a lot more people on smartphones connected to data networks and when that happens, you start seeing are security issues.
We’ll also see a lot more demand coming from the larger companies, especially from media companies. There have been some major announcements like the Apple/IBM partnership so I think they’re going to announce a lot of apps, which will make some other large companies start developing their own apps.
In the startup world, I don’t see things slowing down. There could be a market correction and that may affect hiring in other areas. But I doubt that’ll have an impact on the mobile side of things because the smartest companies have mobile as a big part of their strategy, and these smarter companies typically can raise money in any environment.
Does TurnToTech put a lot of emphasis on learning hardware?
Even though we don’t focus directly on hardware, some of that is inevitable as a smartphone is probably the densest piece of hardware in terms of the number of components and sensors that we use on a daily basis. So in apps, you can’t get away from the limitations of a limited battery life. You must understand that networks are unreliable. If you use sensors for your app like GPS or iBeacons – you definitely need to understand a bit of the physical layout of these things. If you have a high frame-rate app like a game you need to understand GPUs. And then there’s the question of different screen sizes and pixel densities. So definitely, mobile is not at a point where a software developer can be completely agnostic to hardware – and that obviously makes things more exciting. We talk about hardware a lot though mostly from a software perspective.
What lessons have you’ve learned as a bootcamp founder since TurnToTech launched two years ago?
- It took us some time to understand at what experience level somebody should be joining a bootcamp. At first I thought fairly experienced developers would want to learn mobile as mobile skills require practice even if you’re experienced. Although experienced developers are attracted to our program, it turns out there’s also a lot of beginner interest in mobile, so we had to adapt our curriculum to cater to diverse experience levels.
- We incorrectly assumed the programming language itself would come naturally to the students and that we would emphasize mainly the mobile apps development aspects and the platform APIs. It turned out a lot of students wanted more emphasis on the programming fundamentals as well. We made these changes very early on and it has been very successful.
- We learned how important the career readiness side of things is. We took it for granted that students would take care of their resumes and online profiles and stay motivated motivation during the job search. But we realized they really thrive when we offer a lot of support there. We also started helping students with job interviews, and teaching them how to approach CS-type problems some interviewers like to ask, so we included some of that as part of what we teach as opposed to pure mobile. There’s now a little more emphasis on the fundamentals as well.
- Another big lesson is we made it a priority to actively seek employer feedback – that gives us a good sense of what skills are in demand. And we take that feedback very seriously and update our curriculum quickly and regularly.
Shehzad Popat graduated from TurnToTech in fall 2015, and is now a mobile iOS developer at Transfast. He has lived in Japan, and worked as a chef in New York, before he realized he wanted to become a tech innovator. Shehzad tells us about his learning experience, job search, and why he chose to attend TurnToTech.
What were you up to before you started at TurnToTech?
I studied international studies, anthropology and biology at the University of California Irvine. After I graduated I did a lot of travelling and lived in Japan for a while. I ended up in New York three years ago and was doing odd things until I became the head performance chef at Robotaya New York, a restaurant in the East Village. After that, I decided move on to something that was more mentally stimulating.
What made you change careers into tech from that background?
I was interested in what’s out there and what's going on in the world right now, which I realized is different than the anthropology and international studies I knew about. There has been a lot of growth and development. The keyword in the past three to four years has been “innovation” and it gave me this idea to jump over and see if I was able to do it. TurnToTech especially was very realistic and taught me how to do it on my own.
Before you applied to a boot camp, did you do online courses like Codecademy or self-guided online classes?
Yes. Before you jump in, you want to check to make sure you can actually do it. I did some Codecademy stuff and it was straightforward, so I figured I would jump in. It seemed like something I could do for eight hours a day.
How did you find out about TurnToTech?
I used Course Report, actually. I applied to a couple of places and had conversations with them, but I wanted to focus on iOS and mobile and it seemed like TurnToTech was the spot to do it. It was very welcoming and open to different learning styles.
They teach more than just development, the first thing you learn is how to learn which is so helpful. It means a lot of the graduates are able to branch off and study different languages and different types of coding afterwards.
They have a 12-week course that includes an internship at the end which you work at. It took me just about that amount of time if not a week longer because I had to take a week off.
Is TurnToTech mostly focused on iOS or do they teach Android also?
When I first applied, it was both mobile platforms. Most of the students are learning iOS. I think it started completely as an iOS boot camp and then they started adding Java for Android.
Why did you want to learn how to code for iOS?
I wanted to use what I had in my hand, and I had an iPhone, so I felt like that was the smartest thing to do. Maybe in retrospect it would be different but iOS is definitely a great starting point and it was the right choice at the time.
Did you like the self-guided nature of TurnToTech?
Yeah, that's the best way for a lot of students because there's unlimited collaboration with other students. The focus is on everyone learning. The way it works here is that when you have issues, you can either ask a teacher, or the rolling admissions system means the person next to you is a few weeks ahead and can also help you out. You're working with everyone around you and you're developing your network with other mobile developers. It’s that style, which I think is really unique to TurnToTech. You’re working as though you already have a job while you’re learning, so there’s no difference when you make the transition.
Tell me what the application process was like for you.
We had two interviews, a culture interview and a tech interview.
The culture interview is to see if you have the dedication to put in the time, and if you actually want to learn. Anyone can learn tech things, it’s just whether you’re open to learning and open to learning differently.
When you start learning tech coming from a non-technical background, it’s like learning a new language and you want to give up because everybody speaks the same language but you don’t. So it’s like going overseas and learning a new language – you’re just out of place for a while. They want to make sure you can handle that.
As for the technical interview, one of the instructors sits you down and asks you different coding questions just to see where your skills are. If you’re at a base level, they’ll start you from a pre-course. If not then you can jump to the normal 12 weeks. I did the pre-course which is four weeks, plus the 12. I think I did 18 weeks in total including a couple of breaks.
Did you feel like you were learning with other students at the same time or was it very individual learning?
Usually, a few students join at the same time and you sort of even out because you want to work together. You guys are working on the same things so you can help each other out. It’s not individual whatsoever – you’re learning as a group, you’re talking and discussing ideas.
How often were lectures, if any?
The way it works is if you want to go over a concept you just ask one of the instructors and they’ll just throw a lecture together. It’s a little different now since I left. I believe what they do is each student makes a presentation about a third party framework or a new concept that they think everyone should be familiar with.
Can you take us through the technologies that you learned in the iOS track?
I started with some Java and then we jumped into C to understand the basic fundamentals of all languages. After that, we learned Objective C, then we moved on to iOS. Now at my job I work purely in Swift.
How many hours per week were you spending on TurnToTech?
At first, I took it slow because I had another job – I was still a chef at that restaurant. I would only do about five hours a day for the first couple of weeks then I quit my job. After that I ended up doing 70 to 80 hours a week.
The way it works is you can think about a problem and deal with the problem and figure it out but your brain needs a break from it when you’re hitting something really hard. You won’t get the answer until 12 in the morning or something like that. So if you can spend more time doing it, those answers start to come quicker and you move forward through your learning.
What was the feedback loop like? Were you able to give feedback to the instructors?
What’s great about the instructors is they’re always speaking to alumni and students about what is going on in the job market. There’s a small but really tight alumni network because everybody who graduated from here really enjoyed their experience. As a student, you see previous students regularly coming in and talking to the instructors. If you have an issue you can talk to them and they’ll give you a clear, concise reason as to why something is happening. And if they don’t have an answer they’ll find one to fit the needs of whatever student.
They’re aware that every student learns differently and they know that to learn in an environment like this, there needs to be no ego on either side.
Tell us about your new job.
I’m working on Wall Street for a company called Transfast. It’s a service for transferring money from country to country and person to person based on different locations. For example, a lot of Canadian and U.S. citizens are sending money back and forth to family members.
I am working on the mobile app. I’m taking care of the new 3.0 version. I’m solely responsible for that as of now. It’s a small team – there are two Android guys and two iOS guys.
What have the first couple of months been like transitioning into this new career?
It’s different so far because the only other iOS dev has been overseas. My situation is a little bit strange because there’s no other person to bounce ideas off. But the great thing about TurnToTech is I can go back and talk to my teachers if I’m having any problems at work.
What do you do when you run into something that you don’t know how to do?
It’s a lot of googling. But based on the prep I got at TurnToTech, I’m able to figure out almost anything I need for the job. It just takes me a bit longer because of my lack of experience. I don’t feel limited in any way. If there’s a senior guy speaking on any subject, I don’t feel I’m outside the loop, or have difficulty understanding it.
How did you get the job? Was it through TurnToTech?
TurnToTech does a job fair where they have mobile companies coming in. It is really good and I think a lot of the students get interviews from there. I got a few offers after I graduated, two on my own and two through a recruiter. After I got those offers, I just chose the one that fit me best, location-wise, and what I wanted to do.
What is your advice to other bootcampers who are faced with multiple job offers? What made you go with the job that you have?
It’s just about where you want to be. Do you see yourself as needing to learn more being in a larger dev group where you can work on a lot of different projects and just make it second nature? Or do you want to work on something a little more personal where you have more control? I think it’s just based on what you want afterwards.
Do you think that TurnToTech was worth the money? Could you have learned everything you learned at TurnToTech on your own given the time?
Anything’s possible, but not probable. I’m glad I found TurnToTech because it’s the only way I would’ve done it.
Terry Bu of Turn to Tech shares his experience becoming an iOS developer after graduating from Turn to Tech one year ago. Terry provides insight for other bootcamp grads considering whether to get a job or pursue their own startup. For those wondering if bootcamps are worth it, Terry tell us why you can’t become a software developer on your own.
Tell us what you were up to before you went to TurnToTech and what made you think about making the switch to web development?
I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Business Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
I considered different paths after college - marketing, sales, financial consulting, healthcare business analyst. I chose to work in marketing and sales for around 2-3 years. I’ve worked at Ogilvy & Mather, Epsilon, Cisco and Logicalis.
But long story short, I didn’t feel passionate about my day jobs. I started to do a bit more soul-searching to discover what I really wanted from my life and remembered that public-speaking on stage and making people laugh were always a huge part of my life growing up. So I started doing standup in the underground comedy community in NYC. I became pretty serious about it, performing at places like Gotham Comedy Club and Broadway Comedy Club. Around late 2012, I quit my dayjob and did standup full-time, living off my savings. I’m still doing comedy now, about 3 years later, and going strong.
Unfortunately (and in hindsight, quite obviously), I ran out of my savings and had to find another job. Then I thought about it— what if I learned a completely new skill to support myself in a day job while I pursued standup? I considered all my past interests and thought “Hey, computer science is something I haven’t had the guts to study yet . You can do so many things with technology now, so I thought why not give it a try?”
After three months of self-study, I was doing Ruby on Rails freelance projects that I found on Remotework.com and craigslist. But relying on freelancing as my only source of income was tough and I knew i had to get a full-time job before I could really call myself a computer programmer.
How did you find out about bootcamps?
I went to a career fair that was held at Turn to Tech. It was completely by accident, although I don’t really believe in accidents!
Did you look into any other bootcamps outside of New York? At that time a year ago, there were probably five or ten in New York.
Other bootcamps had career fairs too. However, I already taught myself Ruby on Rails and most of these bootcamps were teaching that. TurnToTech was the only bootcamp I found that was offering IOS at the time, and that was the key for me. I tried learning Java and Android on my own so I knew that mobile dev is definitely not something you can easily pick up in a couple weeks by yourself.
So the language was the deciding factor.
Yes! I thought it would be a waste of my money to learn the same language that I studied on my own for the past 3 months. TurnToTech also had a deferred payment model (students pay tuition after they get a job) at the time, so that was a factor too.
The other thing about TurnToTech is that a year ago it was relatively self-paced. You could start at any time. You didn’t start with a cohort on the same day and learn through lectures every day, right?
Correct. Some people were upset because it’s very self-paced, but I loved it because you work as hard as you want to work. If you’re ambitious, you can finish the program in two to three months.
I’d get there at 9 a.m. and leave at 10 p.m. I started in September, finished the curriculum in mid-October and then I did their internship.
Was there a set curriculum? Self-paced instruction can be daunting to a lot of people who need a little bit of structure. Did you know what you were supposed to be learning?
We have a structured curriculum from day one. It consists of about 20 projects that you work through. The time you spend just depends on on how long it takes you to work through those projects. The instructor, Oren, is always there to answer questions if you run into trouble, which I did. You may ask the instructor questions ten times a day! You could always see what you were supposed to be learning, because the curriculum offered a week-by-week project breakdown.
What was the application process like for you? Did you have to do a technical interview?
Right after the career fair at Turn to Tech, I set up a time to speak with Oren one-on-one. I did a couple of coding challenges. I think there were problems like Fizz Buzz, reading from and writing to a CSV file, string reversals, things like that. I did everything in Ruby because that’s what I was comfortable with at the time.
Tell us about the student interaction. How much interaction did you have with the other students in the class?
A lot. It also depends on who starts the program at the same time as you but I was lucky to have four other iOS students starting with me and also four or five other Rails students. The students would ask each other questions when we got stuck and help each other out a lot. Both iOS and Web students got along well and we would marvel at each other’s creations, sharing domain-specific knowledge. We were close and did hackathons together at HackerRank.com
Did it feel diverse in terms of age, gender and race? What did the classroom feel like to you?
Very diverse. Young, old, international, local, you name it. There were guys in their fifties looking for a career change. This young lady in her late 20s who didn’t need the income but just wanted to be an entrepreneurial app developer. A lot of recent college grads. There was also a man who used to be homeless that learned how to code. I met a lot of interesting people.
Give us a rundown of the technologies that you learned in the classroom. Was Swift out when you were at TurnToTech?
Yes, Swift had just been released. TurnToTech started teaching it right away in the evenings. I listened in on Swift classes that Aditya and Oren offered weekly but learning Objective-C and Swift at the same time was a bit too demanding for me so I ended up learning Swift on the job after graduation.
How many projects did you do when you were there?
There must’ve been 30 – 40 of them.
Did you do a capstone or final project?
Our internship was a sort of final project.
Tell us about the internship.
After you get through the basic curriculum, you can do an internship which involves working in a group of three or four developers. We work with real clients who want to release an iOS app for their early-stage idea. We work on a specific feature or functionality. When that’s complete we sit down together to ensure everything works well together. We are also given a deadline for each job. That was our capstone project.
What did you do for your internship?
We worked on a geolocation-based anonymous app. You can interact with people around you and send each other anonymous messages. Aditya (Turn to Tech founder) worked with us very closely.
In the beginning, I got pretty frustrated because I am pretty sensitive about deadlines and was often worried that I wouldn’t finish developing something by a certain date. I finally said, “Aditya, I have no idea how to do this,” and he helped me calm down and walked me through it step-by-step. That was a huge plus. It was awesome.
Did you work directly with the client or was it Aditya?
Our client was very hands-on; he met with each one of us. But usually yes, it was more working directly with Aditya, asking him for assignments and delivering a feature by a due date. The client did give us UI mockups to work from.
Did the app get deployed and is it live now?
It’s live now. It’s called Up-anonymously spread kindness. It changed a lot from the time I worked on it until after I graduated because other students worked on it as well.
How long did that internship period last?
Around two to three months. I started late October and interned there until late December, then I started job searching in January.
Once you started job searching, what were you looking for?
I was looking for something full-time, but I didn’t really have any big expectations. I just wanted to get my foot in the door as soon as possible so I can start growing as a computer programmer. I did apply to some big companies like Amazon, BuzzFeed, Google, Twitter but it was more for kicks. I interviewed with a couple of them but those live coding algorithm interviews were no joke. I spent all my time developing apps and projects, which is good in its own way, but live coding is a completely different beast that requires its own training.
Where did you meet people looking to hire bootcamp grads?
I relied on advice from older graduates. They had different approaches, but it’s a combination of a lot of different things—going straight to company Careers section, blasting out resumes to job boards, AngelList, Stack Overflow, Indeed and job fairs, obviously. We went to a lot of job fairs.
Did you get any interviews from doing that?
Yes. It’s a numbers game. You send out 100 applications and you might hear back from 10 companies, it depends. I kept an excel sheet to track all my job leads and names of interviewers, kind of like how salespeople track their sales leads. I wrote about it more in a blog post.
Did you do mock interviews at TurnToTech with the instructors?
We did behavioral and iOS based interviews, and we’re very good at that.
What was your first job after TurnToTech?
It was a boutique software consulting company called The Hackerati that delivers Engineering as a Service for Web and Mobile. Their clients included Viacom and Nestle. It was a good learning experience because they had a very talented mix of Android engineers, iOS engineers, Web Engineers and UX Designers as well. I learned a lot from senior developers, peers and mentors around me.
I wore a lot of different hats there, doing everything from Swift and iOS to working on a MEAN stack web app’s Node and MongoDB backend for Nestle Waters. I even learned a little bit of Python and contributed to a Python Flask web app. Learning JIRA project management and doing tickets threw me for a loop too. Overall, I grew a ton there and really appreciated the experience.
Now what are you up to?
Now I am the Lead iOS Engineer at an early-stage seed startup called Tastii. We are like Spotify for food. We're a personalized recommendation engine for food and restaurants. We help you find the best restaurant that matches your taste. I’m the only iOS Developer so a lot is riding on me!
A lot of people have different intentions going into a bootcamp. Would you suggest that people take a full-time job before starting their own thing? Do you think you could’ve started working at Tastii right after graduating?
I think it’s a great idea for people to take a full-time job in a group dev environment before starting their own thing. I could have started working at an early-stage startup right after bootcamp but I think it would have been a very painful experience because you still have a lot to learn before you can take on a lot of responsibility. While working in my first job at the Hackerati, I learned more about how to use Git properly and collaborate in a team environment, and get a chance to see how things are supposed to be done. If I had jumped right into an early stage startup, I would have had no point of reference to compare everything.
I love programming but it’s still challenging for me right now, and you really need all the help you can get to grow faster. The benefit of working at a full-time job with senior developers are the little tips you can glean from them, just watching over their shoulders everyday. You learn about new tools and technologies by looking at the software, editor and commands they’re using. You talk to them and listen to how they think. It’s best to just be a sponge in the first few months following a bootcamp.
It’s been a year since you graduated. Would you say that it was worth the it? Would you recommend it to other students? Could you have learned the curriculum on your own?
It was certainly worth it. When I was trying to tackle everything by myself, I would fumble around trying to learn everything and the entire experience was very emotional. Many days, I lost motivation because there was no guidance in tackling this extremely vast body of knowledge called programming that takes a lifetime to master. Everything seemed pitch black. I had no idea what the next step was.
But when you’re working everyday in a group with support from instructors and senior alumni, they’re living proof that you can become great at this new skill, find a job and start a new future if you work hard. They’re there every day to remind you of that. And you see your peers working their butts off too and think “Hey I gotta keep up too!” Instructors also told me that I was doing well and encouraged me every step of the way, giving me valuable advice especially in that tough job-searching process. You don’t get that when you’re doing it by yourself.
I think it’s definitely worth the money. I won’t say it’s “impossible” to learn computer programming all by yourself and find a lucrative career because some really smart people have already done that. But the people I met at TurnToTech, the experiences, the connections, the mentors — those things will stay with me throughout my entire programming career and they were truly priceless. I’m very happy about all that’s happened because of programming and TurnToTech, and am always grateful for that day when I accidentally walked into TurnToTech’s job fair. I’m very grateful for meeting great mentors at TurnToTech like Aditya, Oren, Kaushik and the other guys.
Apple’s newest, beginner-oriented programming language Swift has made developing for the iPhone a possibility for new and experienced developers alike. iOS developers earn over $100,000 on average, so it's a perfect time to learn to program for the iPhone. With the help of one of these iOS bootcamps, you could find yourself developing mobile apps utilizing Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, and Swift.
Google’s Android OS is the most used mobile operating system in the world, and the little green robot has been winning hearts and minds for years now thanks to its high customizability and flexible open source developing options. Android programmers work in the Android Studio and develop Android apps using SDK manager, earing up to $155,000 per year. It’s no surprise that you would want to learn how to develop for Android – do your research with Course Report’s list of top Android bootcamp and developer classes.Continue Reading →
After working in advertising for five years, Ali Lynch decided to begin researching bootcamps to learn mobile development. She was impressed with the emphasis on Swift at TurnToTech, and is currently a student in her 7th week of TurnToTech's course. We talk to Ali about how she chose the right bootcamp for her, how TurnToTech differs from other bootcamps, and how she has pushed through challenges in the course.
What were you doing before you started at TurnToTech?
I majored in Entrepreneurship and Marketing at Syracuse University, and upon graduating I got a job in advertising. I worked with this first firm for about a year, but it was a small, traditional agency, and I wanted more digital experience so I ended up going to work at Digitas. I liked the fast paced world of online advertising, and felt at home working as a brand strategist for American Express OPEN Small Business. It was my job to come up with creative strategies on how best to market to small business owners. I particularly enjoyed the part of my job where I got to interview business owners. It was their passion and excitement that motivated me to go out on my own.
After five incredible years learning the ins and outs of small businesses, I felt like the time was right to make a move. I had heard that Apple came out with a new programming language, which I knew was something that doesn’t happen very often, and I wanted to capitalize on that opportunity. So I started looking for bootcamps that taught Swift, and TurnToTech was the only one that I could find that really focused on Swift.
Now that I’m in the program, I realize that choosing based on who teaches Swift maybe wasn’t the best criteria for selecting a bootcamp, but so far I’ve been really happy with the decision I made.
Did you find yourself doing anything technical in your last role?
I’ve always had an interest in technology, and an affinity for computers from an early age. As part of my last role, I took the initiative to develop online social listening tools to collect intel on what was being said about particular brands. This was all done using HTML widgets, which I had to learn how to use from scratch.
That sort of gave me a bug- out of all the things I was working on that was what really excited me; that was what I was staying up until 4am working on. As I thought about my next move, I had an instinct I should pursue something in technology, but wasn’t sure what. Ultimately, I felt like I needed a creative outlet for all the ideas I had.
After thinking more and more about how to utilize my experience and express my interests, I felt like developing apps was the best option.
Did you do Codecademy or another online program before you applied?
I did Codecademy just to see what it was like, just a few of their exercises. Then I probably did like 5 hours worth of research online reading what people said about the different bootcamps. I actually looked at Course Report! It did a really good job of identifying the top programs in New York and highlighting the potential pros and cons of each.
I narrowed it down to TurnToTech, Flatiron School, and General Assembly. But I had this idea that since I was going to be developing apps, I wanted a school that only taught that, and didn’t have a lot of other additional educational programs. I really wanted a focused program and a school that specifically specialized in developing apps.
Did you end up applying to any of those other boot camps or did you just go to TurnToTech?
I went to an info session at TurnToTech. They had a meet-up about Swift, and I went just to see the space and meet the instructors. I was kind of overwhelmed when I got there because I had no idea what they were talking about. A few days later, I came back and met with them for a half hour to discuss the curriculum and to see if I could enroll, even though I had no programming experience. They said it was ok, and gave me prep work designed to introduce me to programming, which I ended up doing at the school with someone there to answer questions and advise me.
That’s really cool!
Yea, I came in with zero programming knowledge. I took computer science in high school but I remembered nothing. I look back on what I know now since I started, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned.
You said earlier that just looking for a school that teaches Swift or a specific language is not necessarily the best criteria for choosing a school. Can you explain that?
Basically, in order to understand and learn Swift, you have to start at the beginning. So regardless of what language you’re going to be working in, you’ll need to start with C and then move on to Objective C. What I should have been doing was looking for a school that was based on my desired learning style rather than picking based on what language they were specializing in.
How long did the application/interview process take from start to finish till you were accepted and knew that you were going to Turn to Tech?
I gave them a call, got a few questions answered, and was told to fill out their online application. The next day I got an email asking my availability to come in for an informational session to discuss the program in further detail. After talking with them, It didn’t take much longer to get accepted and pick out a start date.
Can you talk about the teaching style at Turn to Tech and if it matches with your learning style?
Oren, the main teacher told me during the informational session that they’re not going to teach you to program the easy way, and I definitely agree. This has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done but I really appreciate the way they’ve taught us. Particularly, how they teach you to be self-sufficient. Learning how to use the debugger, and search online for answers are particularly useful skills, because after I graduate, I’m going to be developing apps on my own and I’m not going to be able to just raise my hand when I need help. It may be more challenging than the other bootcamps but I think in the long term, it’s worth it because you have those foundational skills.
Do you have a traditional lecture during the day?
One of the reasons I picked the program was because there weren’t traditional lectures. This was something I preferred because I came in having no programming experience, so I didn’t want to have to zip through things and not fully understand them in order to keep up with everyone else.
For me, it was really great that I was able to take my time at the beginning. Now I feel like I’m caught up to speed, and that worked really well for me. On the flip side, I could see someone coming in with programming experience and not wanting to be slowed down by someone like me. In my opinion it works out for people on both ends of the spectrum.
Who are the instructors that are working with you and how many people do you have access to if you need help?
Aditya and Oren are the main instructors. They also encourage us to ask students that have been in the program longer for help...I think there are probably around 20 people in the program.
Of those 20 people, do you find diversity in age, race, gender in your class, even though you all aren’t in a traditional cohort?
I was actually surprised. I was expecting everyone to be very young and tech savvy and that hasn’t necessarily been the case. There are definitely students of all ages, both male and female, some are just starting out professionally, and others are looking for a career change. I’d say it’s definitely welcoming to all demographics.
How far are you through the course?
It’s a 12-week program and I’m going into my 7th week.
Do you feel like you’ve experienced burnout since you’ve been there?
Yes, definitely. But only temporarily.
How did you push through that?
There were some days I was working straight through from 10am to 10 at night, without a break. I just wanted to learn it, so I didn’t want to get up from my seat, I didn’t want to break for lunch. What I started realizing is that I needed to get up and at least take a walk around the block. Otherwise, it’s easy to get so laser-focused on the work that you forget what you’re actually trying to solve.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this has been the most challenging thing I’ve done. To be honest, I thought I was signing up to run a 5K and it turns out I’m running an ultra-marathon. But I love it. It’s a rewarding experience and I feel like I love to learn and I’ve been learning so much, which is what I really appreciate. I’m working towards something that I’ve been thinking about for a while but wasn’t actually sure how to execute on it. I feel like I’m really learning an extremely valuable skill set that will set me up for success for the rest of my life.
Have you been working on projects with teams throughout TurnToTech or do you work on individual projects?
I was actually given the option, since I’m not looking for a traditional job developing apps for a company. If I wanted to, I could work on a group project. That’s how the course is structured, where you have education for the first portion, which is done individually, followed by an internship. For the second part, you work as a group to build an app that is eventually launched in the app store. Just to go through that process is really exciting and valuabl
Do you want to tell us about your project?
The one that I’m excited about is an open house organizer. Through the app, you’ll be able to find open houses in the area based on your criteria, and then organize how you’re going to see them based on the most optimal route. When I was apartment hunting, I was looking at 20 apartments a weekend that were only shown for two hours a day, and I would have to take the time to map it out because I wanted to see all of them and there was such a small window for each. This app, like all of the rest I plan to develop, hone in on a specific problem, and solve a real world need. I think my best ideas solve problems people didn’t even know they had.
Do you feel like most of the people at TurnToTech are doing something entrepreneurial and building their own product or have you noticed that there’s a job assistance or job placement program if you need it?
The focus is on getting people jobs; that’s their ultimate goal. There are different job fairs that they set up in the space; people go on interviews on a regular basis.
But for everyone who’s graduated, the process has been really quick. I’ve seen them graduate, and go on maybe a couple of interviews and before they get offered jobs. I’m definitely seeing that there’s huge demand for programmers. It also seems like companies are really happy to take TurnToTech graduates because they come with the skills that they’re looking for.
But I think that everyone has a side project, regardless of whether they’re looking for a job or not. I think pretty much everyone has a little bit of an entrepreneurial side.
Are you thinking you’ll stay in New York after you graduate?
I’ve been in New York over 7 years and definitely feel like I’m at the heart of everything that’s happening. I love that there are so many tech meetups and startup conferences, and I’m constantly meeting new people with similar interests. So I definitely planning on staying here.
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Aditya Narayan had a wealth of experience in technology companies- from starting his own online tutoring service to heading up IT security at a Fortune 500 company. He decided to team up with Harish Shadadpuri to found TurnToTech, a programming bootcamp in New York that trains students in mobile and web development. We talk with Aditya about the iOS course and decision to teach Swift, the program's unique structure, and how they create self-sufficient developers in twelve weeks.
So tell us about your story and how you started TurnToTech?
At age 15, I had to study for two years non-stop to get into IIT, one of the world’s most competitive technology schools. That experience taught me a lot about competing and winning in an intellectual arena. By the time I graduated, I had a few job offers in NY and started working as a software engineer and within 5 years, I was head of IT security for a Fortune 500 company. I also started a software company that built Linux management software, which did extremely well in its space. Next I co-founded an online Math tutoring company – which is still going strong – and in 6 years, we’ve tutored over 20,000 students. So I happen to have a background in education and in software development and have seen first hand what it takes to compete in this space.
Over the years I’ve probably managed maybe a hundred developers and architects, and I also hired a lot. Especially in our Linux company, we needed skills that weren’t readily available and that are when I figured that I just needed to hire people who were smart and intelligent. The rest would follow. And I developed an internal training program that would turn them into highly productive engineers within a matter of a couple of months. Then they would go on autopilot and keep improving their productivity and range of skills over the years.
One day, maybe in 2012, I read that the unemployment and underemployment levels for fresh graduates was some ridiculously high number and I realized that we could do something about it.
We got to work on the idea - we already understood the software engineering process, we had trained several internal employees over the years and in our education venture and we learnt about education and how personalized education mattered. And TurnToTech was born.
Which languages will students learn in their time at Turn to Tech?
In terms of languages – we do Swift, Objective-C and Java. But we try to stay somewhat language agnostic. We teach iOS & Amazon Cloud at the moment. We’re starting Android and Ruby on Rails course this summer. Even in our iOS program, almost everyone spends some time doing Java based backends. And since we’re talking about languages - it’s worth noting that we are the first company to offer a Swift bootcamp.
Tell us about your teaching style- do you give lectures or use a project-based approach?
We don’t do any lectures, not because they’re not good, but because lecture assumes that everybody’s at the same level, which is almost never the case. Sometimes if there are 5 or 6 people who want to understand a specific topic, maybe we’ll do a presentation of some kind but typically we don’t do that; that’s not how we progress here.
The way we progress is through a project-based curriculum. In our iOS course, we’ve created a set of 20 or so projects that students work on. They are supposed to create their own version of the product, but we don’t tell them how it works. They just get something that works but they have to figure it out on their own.
The things we encourage here are problem solving, finding information on the internet and reading documentation. Of course after they complete the projects, we do a complete code review and suggest improvements. We’ll also sit down with the students to debug some tough problems but we encourage independence.
And are students in groups when they do those projects?
No, not in the first 6 weeks because that would defeat the purpose- half of the group would work and the other half would just relax. So in the first 6 weeks – everyone has to perform on their own and they do and the hard work pays off in a big way.
How is your program structured?
Our program is structured in two parts- 6 weeks of training and 6 weeks of internship in one of our portfolio companies (TurnToTech is also a technology incubator). Students also spend time looking at code written by someone else. In reality, that is what a software engineer’s life is; they always have to work with code written by somebody else. And that is not something you get exposed to unless you work in a real place. So we give exposure to that right away.
In addition to this kind of project-based environment, we also constantly give them reading materials and presentation assignments.
As you can tell, we’re bringing our software development experience to the bootcamp. But it’s not easy… we work with every student on a one-on-one basis but we believe that’s the right way to do it.
When was your first cohort?
First one started in October of last year. We have essentially a rolling start date because of our project based approach. Typically, you can join on the first of the month or in the middle of the month.
How many students do you teach at a time?
We may have at most 6 or 7 who start together – but that changes quickly within a week as everyone moves differently. So at any given time, I don’t believe any two students work on the same topic.
How much programming experience does an applicant need?
We want to see that they’ve shown some attempt at learning to code. We see a lot of applicants who have spent a couple months learning Ruby, which is actually good enough because somebody who spends two month doing Ruby has to be doing something right.
Who are your instructors?
I do a lot of the instructing myself. We have other instructors – but they are actually software engineers. Remember that part of our instruction is an internship on a real product. We are engineers here and we know the kind of people we would like to have in our fields and that’s the kind of skills we try to give to our students.
If after 6 weeks, a student is not ready to go on to the internship, do you let them continue with class time?
Yeah. They need to finish their projects first. But the goal is actually to move into the internship as early as possible.
Can you tell us about the technology stack that students are learning?
In the first 6 weeks, they learn the basics of any app development. The first week we spend on programming- not mobile specific, just writing code. We start with simple things but we end up with fairly complex things like making your own hash tables.
We move fast. In the second week itself, we build a geo-location app with a simple rails backend. Amazon cloud is also a big part of what we are doing here. Because we think these two are the future of mobile and cloud technologies – and cloud technologies not in the traditional sense that you’re just hosting a server on the Internet. There are interesting things that companies like Amazon are providing like S3, a storage service for Amazon that almost every new company is trying to use. We give them insight into all these different technologies that are developing.
We also analyze certain well-known apps like Instagram. We look at some of the Apple apps for the iPhone. We also emphasize why mobile is different from something like web. I want them to understand that doing mobile is not just a smaller screen, it’s a different approach. There are certain basic things. One is of course, screen space is limited. Another is that you need to be much more responsive that a typical app on a desktop.
So ours is a combination of a big-picture/architecture approach combined with deep programming skills.
Will Turn to Tech ever offer classes in Web Development?
Web development has its place also. Even if more users will be using technology from a phone, somebody has to still develop the back end. Rails is still a good choice for developing the back end. So yes, we’ll be doing that very soon.
Tell us about the 6-week internship.
We run another company where we’ve been developing apps for some time. We’re also an incubator and invest in early stage startups and we take ownership of development in some cases. We did math tutoring in our other business and in this company, we’re developing a very interesting math app that we want to run sometime soon. So we have projects like those that have been ongoing. Those projects give a great opportunity for the students to work on something real.
Sometimes somebody comes in with a great idea and then we decided to take an equity stake in that company.
Another arrangement that we have is when a third party comes to us with some idea. TurnToTech would take a stake in that company. TurnToTech has an agreement with its students, so if they get to work on a project, we’ll give out a little bit of equity to the students who work on it.
Are students able to then show these projects to potential employers?
They get to have two very tangible outcomes out of this 3-month experience. One is through our projects – usually as a part of one of our own startups. And second is their own app – some students become so good, they are able to launch more than 2 of their own apps by just working weeknds during this 3 month period.
Can you tell us a really cool app that a student has built?
One of our students was a day trader, and he built an option trading app. It’s really a mathematical app. He’s put it in the app store and it’s doing fine.
Another student did an app that helps you find a restaurant. So you start the app with your desired location, it starts a map and points out all the restaurants.
Another guy created a language-learning app and there’s a big server component.
When you’re learning a language and you need to get feedback from native speakers (let’s say you want to hear a phrase in Canadian French as opposed to Paris French). You can actually post your phrase saying, “I’m looking for somebody to speak this out in a Canadian French accent.” There will be users who will have set themselves up with those kinds of references and it will show up in their feed. If you’re a user and you speak that language, so since it’s your native language, you’ll just read that out and then it gets saved.
There’s also an instant messaging app that’s in development – which we believe will be competing with the big names very soon.
How are you helping students find jobs once they graduate?
We do three things here. In the space here we host meet-ups almost twice a week, and we have tech meet-ups, not necessarily iOS. We have PHP, Ruby on Rails; so that brings a lot of people here to our space and gives a chance for our students to meet up with these professionals. We want them to go and interact with these people, know what it means to work in a company. They get to understand how many IOS developers a company has, how many Rails people they have and so on, what their work is like.
We also have free co-working space here. That brings a lot of entrepreneurs. And just a couple of weeks ago, two of our students teamed up with two entrepreneurs and got funded.
Any Turn to Tech student you talk to, they don’t come off as novices. They have seen people who have launched companies, they have talked to maybe hundreds of people who were more or less aware of this field.
If someone does get placed with a company, do you take a recruiting fee?
No, we have not been doing that.
The average number of people in the Turn to Tech program is about 20; how many of them are women?
We have around about 7 women in the program.
Do you have a refund policy in place?
Yeah. If someone has to leave, tuition just gets pro-rated. But nobody has left our program so far. Actually, one guy left, but because he found a job.
Is there anything else that you want to add about TurnToTech that we didn’t touch on?
We are very focused on is getting our students the practical skills they need. We’re not doing anything theoretical or academic here. Everything we do is with the intent of our students going into a company. We have a lot of experience in the software industry and we try to bring that to our students.
We give them a time frame of 6 weeks to get trained and then move to internship but students also have the incentive that to finish sooner so they get more time on the internship. Our instruction approach is to make them self-sufficient. If they can get to that then we’ve done what we wanted. So that’s our main philosophy and everything is centered on that.
Apple released their new programming language, Swift, for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch this month. The language is meant to be interactive, fun, and works side-by-side with Objective-C so developers can use it with their current apps.
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