Viking Code School
Viking Code School is a 14-week online program that helps serious students become web developers with Ruby on Rails. Classes are limited to carefully selected students who work together throughout the program to solve challenges and build projects. Students learn using a combination of live instruction, 1-on-1 help, tutorials, video lessons, projects and code reviews. Viking Code School aims to provide the support of an in-person class with the flexibility of learning from home. While students don't need previous programming experience, applicants should be highly motivated, capable of learning quickly, and should communicate well. Viking Code School is incentivized to get students software engineering jobs- tuition is completely free if graduates do not get a job within 6 months.
Recent Viking Code School News
- Online Bootcamp with a Job Guarantee: Viking Code School
- March Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
- Free Webinar: Which Online Coding Bootcamp is Best for YOU?
Recent Viking Code School Reviews: Rating 5.0
Viking Full Stack Web Application Engineering FLEX
- Payment Plan
- Dial in exactly the level of support you want and choose from any of our available plans, which are pay-as-you-go.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Students are expected to work very hard and learn quickly but there is no minimum bar aside from completing the prep work.
- Prep Work
- Prep work covers everything from the basics of web development to design, engineering and coding. It can be started at https://www.vikingcodeschool.com/prep
Viking Full Stack Web Application Engineering IMMERSIVE
- $2,000 non-refundable deposit
- Payment Plan
- Payment plan is available
- Students eligible for tuition deferral pay 18% of their first year's salary during the course of that year or a fixed-price option of $11,800.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Be prepared to write code, build an app, and pair-program with an instructor. This is very rigorous program with a challenging application and interview process.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Prep covers everything from basics of web development to design to engineering to coding. It can be found at https://www.vikingcodeschool.com/prep
Viking Code School Reviews
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If you are considering attending a coding bootcamp, I would recommend putting Viking Code School (VCS) on the shortlist.
The foremost question on most people's minds when looking for a bootcamp is, "will this get me a job?" In the case of VCS, the short answer is: yes. Is it a guarantee? No, not entirely. But what VCS does offer is deferred payment (based on you getting a job), which adds a layer of accountability and helps you to focus on learning, networking, and interviewing.
The format of VCS is focused on pair programming through Google Hangouts. At times this could be hit or miss due to connectivity issues, but overall it was a very effective way for multiple people to work on code. VCS is a remote program, which has its pluses and minuses. You can save time and money on commuting and relocating. You do miss out on learning in a classroom environment, but the nature of software development narrows the difference between working 'in-person' and remotely. The teaching assistants were top notch. They were knowledgeable far beyond what was the necessary for the class, and, most importantly, were invested your learning. The class size was small, starting with about 20 people and ending with 13 (people having dropped out for various reasons). I would also recommend looking at The Odin Project and the VCS prep work to get a general feel for what the VCS curriculum will cover.
If you do decide to attend VCS, be ready for 11+ hours of living and breathing code every day. This is not an easy program and taking shortcuts will quickly come back to bite you. You will feel constantly pushed and at the edge of what you are comfortable with, which is necessary to pack so much information into such a short period of time. This is not a program for everyone, so consider all of the implications and do your research before you make the jump.
For me, the program was a good match. The structure and pace of the program forced me to learn quickly and kept me focused day after day. Technically all the curriculum material is out there floating on the internet, but I know myself well enough to understand that I need something to keep me on track. Once I started the program I felt like I was learning more in a day than what I had learned in a week of self-teaching. And this accelerated learning quickly paid off. I started interviewing for jobs about halfway through my VCS program and was soon offered positions at a couple different companies. I decided to join as a Devops Engineer at a well established tech company. How quickly you get a job may vary depending on location and background (I have an engineering background), but VCS equips you with the tools necessary to impress interviewers and get in the door. Overall, I would give VCS a full-hearted recommendation to anyone looking to start a career in development.
Hey there, Johnny here from the Viking Summer 2016 immersive cohort
First off Viking Code School (VCS) is bad to the bone, please read on!
TLDR: VCS is a completely legit, life-changing experience that I recommend with every fiber of my being! But it’s not for the faint of heart, prepare to work your tail off
I would rate my experience a solid ->
“holy mother of pearl I loved this program and the perspective it has given me!”
A solid 100%, a ★★★★★/★★★★★ rating.
I reallllly enjoyed my time with VCS!
How’d I get here you ask?
I was an electrical engineer and project lead at the Boeing Company working on state of the art power supply designs before joining VCS. I began using software to eliminate a lot of the minutia in my day to day. I fell in love with SW it and found myself bombarded with entrepreneurial ideas that I didn’t know how to make a reality.
Now, all that has changed.
What have I gained from my VCS experience and what can you expect?
First off, I’ve received numerous job offers from companies near and far while classes were in session and after. I’m extremely happy to be joining Asynchrony Labs here in January 2017. I’m also working to build the entrepreneurial dreams I’ve had over the past few years. Viking prepares you with hands-on projects. It will challenge you in ways you’ve never been challenged before. Most of the people here have touched on the style of teaching you will see at Viking and it is really amazing. I’ve also shared a blog on medium outlining the life of a Viking student (check it out here).
You won’t be spoon-fed the material, you will have to put in the work so you are prepared to crush the multitude of projects you will be completing. Get use to the agile workflow b/c we embrace it at VCS. It's a huge benefit to have had this exposure when you start to interview with companies who will be using something like it (if they are worth their salt).
The curriculum itself is soooo much better than reading a university textbook. I spend 100s of hours in my university days boring through textbooks. Freaking hated it. But at VCS you will be able to build alongside the material (do it, it’ll help you learn the material a lot better!) and you won’t feel the boredom like you would at the university. You will learn best practices in the industry.
The Proof is in the pudding
Check out the prep work they have on their website, it really showcases the complete software engineers that they are building through the program, not just some code monkey. If you enjoyed the prep work, you’ll LOVE the program!
Buckle up you’re in for a treat
I had a fantastic experience as a student at Viking Code School!
To start, here is a little background on me. I graduated from UC Berkeley in Civil and Environmental Engineering and worked at a startup doing semi-technical work and working side-by-side with software engineers. That’s when I decided to take the leap and become a full time software engineer!
Why Viking over other bootcamps?? When I applied to coding bootcamps, I did A LOT of research. In the end, I narrowed it down to bootcamps with the deferred payment model. (App Academy and Viking Code School). I got into both and decided on VCS for a few main reasons:
- Small Personal Class Sizes. My cohort was only 13 people and we had 4 instructors, which made for a really great personalized learning environment. I attended the App Academy jumpstart program and was a little turned off by the number of students in each class (~65) and the lack of personal attention.
- Longer Program Length. The VCS program is four months long while most others are 2-3 months long. There is just so much to learn, and the longer the program, the better you will understand the material.
- The people! The instructors are terrific and are both great programmers, and fantastic teachers. They also have a deep understanding of the job market and are always there to help.
- The course material. Before the program, I did the prepwork on vikingcodeschool.com. I was VERY impressed with the material. You should definitely read through all of it and decide if it fits your learning style.
A note on remote learning….Yes, VCS is a remote program, which scared me at first also. There are occasional technical difficulties, but overall they do not hinder the program. Pair programming over google hangouts was actually very effective. You don’t get the casual side conversations, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to convey what you’re thinking. However, I was always working with someone or in a group meeting, so I never felt alone! You also don’t have to commute which makes a huge difference especially when the program itself takes up ~12 hours a day including homework. You also can jump out of bed, wear whatever you want, and save money on commuting and eating out. Now that I have a job, I actually really miss working remotely!
A note on program intensity…The program is A LOT of work. The instructors are there to help you if you are willing to put in the work. I’ll say it again, you have to be willing to work really, really hard! We had quizzes every Monday, and if you did poorly on multiple you were kicked out. We started with 21 students and finished with 13 because people didn’t realize how intense it was/were asked to leave/decided it wasn’t the right type of program, etc. Class is 8am-6pm PST M-F, we had ~2hrs of reading every night and multiple assignments on the weekend. Just know what you are getting into and be realistic about how much time you are willing to devote!
I received my first job offer a week after the program ended and my second a few days after that. It took some of my other classmates much longer (a few months), but I think it helped that I had a technical background and I worked overtime and did more than was required when it came to job stuff. I am very happy in my current position (Fullstack Software Engineer at a ~200 person silicon valley startup) and am extremely grateful to VCS!
VCS is a really terrific program and I highly suggest it! Hope this review helped! :)
So I had a skype call with Eric, and to be honest he is a nice enough guy, intelligent, and knows what he's doing.
However what I didn't like about him was the bait and switch tactics.
VCS is heavily promoted as being "tuition-deferred"...in fact they show up at the top of almost all the searches.
However during the call, he was heavily pressuring me into taking the "non-deferred" option...which is USD 13,800 paid upfront.
I was shocked by this as NOWHERE ON HIS WEBSITE DOES IT EVEN SAY THAT THIS IS AN OPTION.
Just another example of people trying to take advantage of students and education.
My name is Graham and I just completed Viking's Fall 2016 cohort (July 5th - October 28th). Before Viking I spent some time working as a middle school teacher, and in software sales. While working for a SaaS startup, I knew my desire was to be on a more techinical team, and decided to jump in head first with Viking.
It was a scary decison, because like most people googling for Viking Reviews, there wasn't a ton of information out there. I couldn't afford to fork over 15k upfront for a more traditional in-person code school so I knew Viking was my best shot.
I was pleasently suprised by how in depth the course material went. These guys really know their stuff. The focus on pair programming ensures that you are staying on pace and mainting best practices. The TA's are an incredible wealth of knowledge, and the other students you work with will suprise you with their brilliance.
During and after the program I've ahd the opportunity to meet other boot camp grads and developers, and they are always impressed by how capable I am as a developer after only four months.
I'm now a week out of the program and have already accepted a Software Engineer position at a local company, so I would say it was definitely the right move for me. Viking has a TON of upsides, the only downside being that you are going to have to go out and hustle to build your own hiring network (which wasn't quite as difficult as I thought it would be).
I would reccommend the course to absolutely anyone!
My name is Kelsey, and I was in the January 2016 Viking Code School
cohort. I'd considered code schools for a while beforehand, ever since I
reached a point where I felt I needed help to get to a professional level.
I completed the interview with Viking, and was accepted a few days later.
Even before the program started, we had prep work to do, which set the
tone for the effort and reward involved.
I was in the full time program, which meant 16 weeks of writing code all
day, every day. We spent most of the time pair programming, rotating
between different partners, although we also had individual projects. This
way, we learned more than simple coding skills; we learned how to solve
problems beyond the scope of a rigidly defined exercise.
Our final project was built in teams over the course of 2 weeks, and was
designed and scoped entirely by the students. Learning those time
management skills, as well as how to properly scope a project, has been
just as useful in my new career as every algorithm question put together.
When we started applying for jobs, we had practice interviews set up as
well as weekly checkins even after the program had officially ended. I
received an offer about a month after completing the program, and I've
been working there for 2 months now. I still have a lot to learn, but
Viking has helped give me the confidence to know that my journey is just
Hi I’m Julia, and I graduated from the January 2016 immersive program.
Viking exceeded my very high expectations and propelled me to a career that I love. I am now a Software Engineer working in Python and Flask.
I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Environmental Economics and landed a project manager position at a solar monitoring company. From there, I got interested in coding and landed a software QA position at the same company. In that job, I spent 30% of my day writing automated tests in Python, and the other 70% doing manual testing and putting out fires. I kept seeking out more coding at work, and I spent my nights and weekends working through tutorials and reading Hacker News. I’m a very logical person (I love to play chess), and I find that coding presents a really rewarding balance of interacting with people and getting computers to do what I want.
I researched a large number of post-baccalaureate programs, graduate degrees, and bootcamps before making my decision (seriously, you should have seen my spreadsheet). Viking stood out immediately for the depth and quality of the curriculum, the student-teacher ratio, the remote format, and the deferred fee. Viking literally has the same aim as you: to get you hired. They fine-tune the curriculum to make sure you are job-ready, and they drill you on interview practice. You will have to work incredibly hard to get a job, but Viking is right there with you. I loved the remote format because I probably saved an hour of commute time every day (and every hour really counts). It was not difficult to stay on-task and focused because you are constantly interacting with your teammates and the instructors.
From April-June 2016, I applied to over 100 jobs, landed 8 technical screenings, had 3 in-person interviews, and ended up with 2 job offers.
Viking teaches you with project-based learning, and you generally tackle one project per day. 90% of the programming you do is pair programming, so you’re paired with a new student each day. Some of the projects were longer and spanned 2-5 days, letting you build a larger code base and more complex features. The days start at 8am PST and go to either 6pm or 7pm. Each night you will have 1-4+ hours of homework that requires your full attention.
The teaching staff is amazing, and I got exactly the support I needed. I was constantly amazed by Erik’s depth of knowledge, his approachability, and his positivity (especially as our exhaustion increased and we all developed dark circles under our eyes). I was always impressed with Chris and Andur’s areas of expertise, plus their ability to jump into a room and help us solve a problem when we got stuck. They offered weekly office hours as even more support for our learning. Dara, the program director, is an incredibly positive addition to the team. I could feel how passionate and dedicated she was to each and every student’s success.
Viking emphasizes a deep understanding of concepts, instead of just memorization. Like other people have mentioned, Viking teaches you how to learn. These skills will prove immensely useful when you start your first job, and hopefully throughout your career.
My cohort was made up of 4 women and 6 men. I was constantly impressed by my teammates’ intelligence, persistence, and generosity. Everyone got along well, and there was never any negativity. The atmosphere was supportive and inclusive, and we still keep in touch.
I cannot speak highly enough of Viking. I have recommended the course to my friends, colleagues, and people I’ve met through networking. One of my friends recently took the plunge, and she is actually in the middle of her cohort right now!
DO THE PREP WORK. Pay attention, do everything thoroughly, and take it seriously. It will help you get the most you can out of the program.
TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read): Attend Viking Code School. Amazing instructors, great curriculum, and fun community. It’s tough, but worth.
Hey! I’m Andrew and I was part of the January 2016 Immersive program which ended late April 2016.
Before Viking, I graduated with a masters in chemical engineering and was teaching high school students various STEM subjects. While teaching programming, I found myself pouring unnecessary amount of time and effort coming up with creative projects I could have my students do. It became pretty apparent that these ideas were the things I wanted to learn and implement, myself. I had been self learning for a few months but eventually hit a plateau where I was making no progress and wasting time. So I decided to take myself and my passion seriously and pursued this opportunity full time.
Viking was tough. The curriculum will test the very limits of what you think you can accomplish and kick it even further. The first few weeks is where the prep work they have you do pays off. It’s the life vest you can cling on to keep you alive in the hurricane that will wreck you in subsequent weeks.
I spent most of the day pair programming and coding however, and it’s during this time when I saw how things work in action. Learning by doing is great and it’s one of the best ways to learn, but having another person to sit with you to talk about the code is even better. Time just flew. Also many of projects are interesting, challenging, and rewarding to build. I think it’s the combination of a few things that helped me retain and learn skills at an incredible pace:
1. Discipline and strong work ethic
2. Demanding curriculum/pace
3. Community you can ask questions and investigate solutions
The instructors are very understanding of how intense it can get but you have to be in charge of asking questions and taking initiative in figuring out what you are having trouble understanding (which should be a given at this point). It’s generally not expected that you’ll “get” everything without practice so it’s imperative to ask questions during the SCRUM meetings each morning and ask about things were confusing in the required reading. Many concepts build on each other so it’s crucial to be on top of this for the first few weeks. Also, there will some days where you won’t get to “complete” everything on the agenda, and that’s ok. The firehose of information and the constant deadlines add to the pressure, but please don’t stress out if you don’t complete projects, just focus on learning the core concepts and “finish” them up later in your free time on weekends or after the daily readings.
Also, if you have obsessive/perfectionist tendencies like I do, dump them immediately. This is one thing I wish I would’ve done sooner because I didn’t know how badly it affected my productivity until I became more aware of it. If you’re constantly worried about writing “beautiful/best practice/optimal” code, it’ll just add to the pressure. I’ve chugged many energy drinks and lost many nights of sleep due to this self-centered egoism. Just swallow your pride, and get shit done first without worrying about “beautiful code.” If you have time, you can refactor it then. It’s great to be mindful of best practices and absorb it when you can, but it’s honestly a luxury you can go without when your priority is to learn and get stuff done. This is one strategy I adopted to lessen the impact of the waves smacking into my face every week.
I loved that Viking brought in people to come in and talk about their unique perspective in the industry. It’s a series called Viking Codecast (check it out on YouTube! It’s pretty awesome!). Some of the advice and perspective that was shared during these sessions were incredibly insightful, and some of which I keep in mind to this day.
Also, Viking has a solid job curriculum section that covers everything from discovering leads to practicing mock interviews. It’s really helped me get a jumpstart in the job search process, and helped me land an offer I was happy with!
To summarize, I’d recommend Viking to anyone who is serious, self-disciplined, and committed to transitioning into software development.
Disclaimer: I want to acknowledge a few things and it’s really one of the reasons I’m writing this review, and it’s about anxiety. People have reached to me to ask about my experiences at Viking and the common question goes something like “was it worth it?” It’s a completely fair question, I do admit that I experienced that same anxiety that asked if this investment will really pay off in the end.
When I applied there was almost no paper trail online, there were only like 1 or 2 reviews at most giving great reviews on Quora and Course Report. Imagine shopping for a product on amazon that asked for months of full time commitment with no guaranteed return on investment with 1 or 2 five star reviews, how likely are you to purchase? For me it was worth it, for reasons I’ll explain later, but honestly they won’t convince you of anything. Do your homework. Check out the Viking Blog, the Viking Codecasts on YouTube, Viking capstone project presentations also on YouTube, Viking’s twitter, etc. The jury is coming out and it’s getting easier and easier to figure out what Viking is about. I’m here to accelerate that process and give my honest review so that your anxiety can be less than what I experienced in the past. For me, it was a combination of my hours of research literally scouring the web (i.e. google..lol, Quora, YouTube, The Odin Project) that convinced me it was the real deal. I found that VCS had a consistent web presence/message and I had a very positive experience in self-learning via The Odin Project, despite the lack of testimonials/reviews (at the time I looked into Viking).
The staff at Viking is very supportive, approachable and extremely knowledgable. You will certainly gain in-depth technical and soft skills, negotiation techniques and being resourceful. I know Viking graduates will make very desirable and valuable employees.
My name is Jeff and I am a recent graduate of Viking Code Schools winter/spring '16 cohort (started in January). Viking offers part time and full time courses and I was part of the immersive full-time web engineering program.
Viking changed my life.
I was an Electrical Engineer for the past 10 years, and unhappy. I was doing something I didn't enjoy, but the prospect of changing careers to do what I truly wanted seemed daunting. Going back for another degree to college, with no promise of a decent job, and a family to provide for, seemed to put what I wanted out of reach.
In 4 months of training with Viking, I found a job as a web developer, and from day 1 I was good at it.
Viking was intense. It was an all encompassing commitment that has you eat, sleep, and breath code. You wake up, have a morning scrum with your teachers and classmates, then code code code all day. The program has you learn by doing, which worked far better then I thought it would. You'll start out writing a lot of bad code. You'll get called out for every bad thing you do, and you'll push yourself to write better code and avoid the scrum disections! The atmosphere is never negative during scrums, but you still come out with a very opinionated idea of what is "good code" and "bad code". After a full day of coding and discussion, you have a few hours of reading every night to learn new concepts for the next day's work. Every day is something new which is the hardest part of the program. You never stop to soak it in, but rather 'firehose' the knowledge into your brain and sprint to the next milestone.
I still refer to many of the projects I built while in Viking as references, and having that portfolio has been immeasurably helpful. The 'Danebook' social network is a Rails guide I refer to often, and the Trello clone 'Djello' is my go to Angular reference when I want to confirm I'm using best practices. These are both apps I built myself from the ground up, so I'm able to quickly jump in and understand what and why quickly, so I can then apply those ideas in my regular work.
To sum up, the most you can ask for from a program is that it fulfills its promises. Viking did that and more. I came out not only prepared for my new career, but in a position to excel. I even received multiple job offers before the program had officially ended. If web development is something you TRULY want, Viking is the best choice to make it happen.
TLDR: Attend. Great instruction, curriculum, peers, and projects.
I participated in the Su '15 full-time program. The program covered a lot of material from algorithms and data structures to in depth Ruby, Rails, JS, and Angular. It's a tough schedule and pace, but made possible by amazing instructors, an extremely well put together curriculum, and pair programming with very smart peers. The project based learning helped me a lot as we built fun real world apps from the get go (scrapers, interacting with multiple API's, e-commerce backends, games etc.).
VCS emphasized building skills applicable to on the job software engineering - so everyday we used Git while pairing, in our final project we set up continuous integration and deployment, were allowed independence in using gems and API's, and TDD'd projects as well. All this while using hangouts and slack to collaborate, which is important for today's global teams and using Pivotal Tracker for planning and executing projects in agile sprints. It's an extremely well rounded program.
The deferred fees are fine - it means they are investing in us, but other programs offer this as well. With VCS however, we get to learn directly from the people that built and some that participated in the program. Everyone is so committed and bought in, there is no one left behind.
Customary NPS: 10. I am now as biased towards VCS as I am towards my undergrad and grad schools, which is says a lot for the quality.
My name is Xin and I was student in Viking's summer 2016 full-time Web Application Engineering cohort. I strongly recommend the program to anyone who is serious about starting a career in web development because it works.
Before Viking, I was a post-doctoral researcher at UCSF. I wrote software to build computational models but the skills weren't enough for what software engineer jobs were looking for. I joined Viking in order to get a more applied skill set in web development. The week after I graduated from Viking, I got my first software engineer job offer from a Bay Area FinTech company.
During the program, we built group projects every day and the instructors were always there to ask questions and review code. The projects were not easy and we therefore learned a lot by doing them, including how to work on large teams and to build complex applications using Rails and Angular. I appreciated the time spent understanding algorithms and data structures, which we did most days, and which helped a lot with interviewing.
In the end, I'm happy I joined the program and I'm very happy with where my career is now.
Hi, my name is Nick, I am a graduate of Viking Code School’s first full time cohort, and am currently a professional software developer living and working in Austin, TX.
Viking was nothing short of a life changing experience. While one of the most challenging things I’ve ever committed to, it helped get me to a place where I am now doing what I love for a living.
A bit about my back story -- before being accepted to Viking, I had graduated with a BA in International Relations. I worked for a few years in international development, mostly as a project manager for overseas communications projects in Afghanistan. The work was interesting, but ultimately I always felt like I sort of “settled” in college and this career. It was not very fulfilling, and I was always envious of other people who really seemed to love what they were doing. The old sentiment, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” certainly didn’t apply to anything I was doing.
While doing this, I found myself needed to write small programs to automate tasks, such as scraping and cleaning government contract award data. I had never programmed a day before in my life prior to this, but the first time I wrote a program that I actually used to solve a problem, I was hooked. I had always regretted not having the money to go back to school to become an engineer, and software development suddenly gave me a very accessible way to build and solve complex problems.
I spent almost all of my free time absorbing whatever I could, but even the most “directed” resources available still left me with large conceptual gaps about how software is designed, tested, and implemented. I could write code (which is good, because it’s totally expected of your before you are even admitted), but I still couldn’t really write and deploy usable software. Between working 50+ hours and week and jumping back and forth between resources, I found myself not making a ton of progress.
When I first learned about boot camps, I was extremely skeptical. I was naturally skeptical of anything that makes some of the huge promises these programs were offering (1 month and you can make $100k!), but as I did research I found that there were a handful of very highly regarded programs out there. I decided to try and find one that might work. My criteria was as follows:
It had to have an emphasis on the software development process and not just teaching me how to write code
It had to be based around building things, since the best chance of getting hired would be to have a killer portfolio
It had to be highly interactive. I didn’t want a “mentor” telling me what to do and then checking in with me at the end of the day. I wanted to be working with people, day in and day out, since that is what would be expected of me as a developer
It had to be accessible. I was living in Philly at the time, which isn’t a huge tech city, and I couldn’t afford to move to New York or San Francisco for a few months
It had to have deferred payment. I have a ton of student loans already, and while I see the value of these programs and don’t mind paying for it, the reality was I was making about 40k a year in international development while trying to pay off student loans. I simply did not have any money
And then I found Viking. Erik had created a resource I’d used a ton already, The Odin Project, and was a graduate of a boot camp himself, so I knew off the bat he had a pretty good idea of how to take that big step. Furthermore, Viking offered a small cohort of 10 students, where we’d be pair programming every single day for 14 weeks, along with deferred payment. It was everything the top programs in NYC and San Francisco offered, but with the incredible convenience and accessibility of being online. It was terrifying thinking of leaving my job to take this on, but after a few personal conversations with Erik, I was convinced this was the right thing to do.
During the program, we spent every day pairing with different people on projects. Literally every single day we built something new. The process was basically:
Go through a bunch of readings and material the night before about a new concept, technology, or framework
Meet in the mornings for a Q&A and to discuss the day’s project
Build awesome stuff that required us to use what we learned, along with a ton of creativity and Google to solve problems
Code reviews where we reviewed each other’s code as well as had ours looked at by mentors
Rinse and repeat
Honestly, one of the most frustrating parts of the course ended up being one of the most beneficial. Having graduated from college, I was very much used to classrooms where our hands were held and where everything was very directed. That is not how Viking works. You and your partner have to plan and design each day’s project. If you get stuck the team will help you find the best way to get an answer, but refrained from really telling you how to do anything. The result was we came out with the knowledge not just how to write good code, but how to solve problems. This is huge, has helped me on a daily basis as a professional programmer, and was one of the things interviewers loved to hear about.
Perhaps most importantly, it gave me the creative freedom to be able to build things that I wanted in my free time. The personal projects I took from conception to reality during the course were some of the most valuable pieces of my job search arsenal, and the ability to have an idea, build it, and have people use it is something Viking taught me and employers loved about me.
But the course went well beyond just teaching you to be a developer. Their job search support and resources were incredible. We spent 30 minutes every day doing algorithm challenges to mimic interview questions, had people who hire engineers come in to talk to us about the process, and even talked about the best ways to negotiate salary. The program truly prepared me to be a professional developer more than I even imagined. They want you to succeed, and they give you everything you need to do it.
I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is interested in taking the step to becoming a professional software developer. The program isn’t for everyone. It is extremely intensive, requires a ton of time and effort, and was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But if you are serious about becoming a software developer, and don’t have time to spend a few years hacking together projects after work and hoping you pick up enough along the way to get a shot somewhere, you really can’t beat Viking.
Disclaimers: I attended the very first cohort of Viking Code School so my personal experience is specific to the older format of the program (12-weeks, part-time). I also helped with some of the very early design work before the program started. All that being said, I keep in touch with the founder and current developers for the program, and I am certain that my comments are still relevant to it's current form. I am giving my candid review as a student.
Before I start, the answer to the most common question is: Yes, you can get a job after this program. I was offered a position as a "software engineer” working in AngularJS. I am currently taking a different route, but I want to be very clear that it is possible to get a job with what you learn here. (That it doesn’t mean that it’s easy).
This program is intense. Even the part-time version consumed more than every night and weekend. Keeping up with the coursework required extreme dedication and self-motivation. This is probably the hardest part of any remote program. Having a group of people going through the material made staying on track a lot easier. I had spent some time learning on my own before this program, and it was much more pleasant to go through with other people in the same boat.
The format of the program is “flipped classroom.” All of the material is available on demand and you ask instructors and TAs questions during the group video calls. They do a good job of presenting a lot of media to consume the material, the core of the theory is presented in a written format with good examples and the application of theory is in video demos. If you don’t learn well from videos, you can just dig into the demo code yourself. You really have to self-motivate to get through the material and the exercises, because you’ll be discussing it with everyone. The discussions really show you where you thought you understood something and where you really did understand it.
Surprises that I learned in this program:
- Laughing at your own bad code is surprisingly gratifying. It feels great to understand why it is so bad that it's funny. You REALLY remember the funny mistakes.
- Peer code reviews are learning dense. Even if you get stuck on something and can’t finish it, the process of having people look at it and having to explain it will teach you so much.
- Peer coding is awesome and sometimes painful.
- Having somewhere to ask questions and have them answered nearly instantly saves you hours of searching through Stack Overflow.
- The most frustrating errors are caused by the silliest bugs.
Our latest on Viking Code School
Erik Trautman is no stranger to coding bootcamps; he's a graduate of App Academy, creator of open-source learn-to-code site The Odin Project, and now founder of Viking Code School, the first fully online coding bootcamp that is 100% accountable to student outcomes. We catch up with Erik about Viking Code School and find out why (and how) he's offering a job guarantee to graduates of the online programming bootcamp.
Why did your team decide that Job Placement was an important goal for Viking Code School?
Getting either your first job or the first job you really love is a life-changing moment. It’s so significant that students regularly take on mountains of debt and spend years of their lives training just for the shot at an opportunity to build an interesting, challenging and fulfilling career.
We’ve seen enormous and encouraging progress making this path to a great career more accessible via the rise of the in-person bootcamp-style programs over the past several years. It’s still a young market but it’s done a great job proving the relevance and effectiveness of a high-intensity education that’s laser-focused on job outcomes. Specifically, by being accountable to their placement results, the interests of these programs are strongly aligned with those of their students.
Unfortunately, there are still significant geographical and logistical boundaries placed around that kind of training. These boundaries have meant that a significant number of people around the country and the world still don’t have access to top-tier job-focused training. How do you fix this? You can’t build an in-person bootcamp in every city in the world and quality will vary widely in the attempt anyway.
Online programs like the MOOCs were initially hailed as a possible solution when they arrived a few years ago but they have tended to optimize for scale (and replication of the traditional educational model) at the expense of student experience and outcomes. What we need is to make the same kind of quality and outcome focus that an in-person bootcamp can offer, which often provides a life-changing impact on the student, much more accessible via the online medium. That, in a nutshell, is our mission at Viking.
Since you're guaranteeing jobs, how strict are the admissions standards? Will you accept beginners? Will there be a rigorous coding test?
Our mission is to be highly accessible but with very high standards as well. We are looking for students who are highly capable, highly motivated, strongly curious and great communicators. In other words, the same criteria used by employers to hire for their teams and the characteristics that correlate well with a strong career. When they come to us, students could be relative beginners or they could have significant experience; we give them the resources they need to get up to speed fast during the process.
No matter their background, students will be learning at an incredible rate and so we want to make sure that this level of intensity fits well with their abilities and their personal growth curve. Our admissions process is designed to assess this level of fit by emphasizing coding and communication and we admit the applicants who are strongest along those axes. This is to the advantage of our enrolled students, who will work closely with their peers throughout the program.
Even before the job guarantee, did you find that students were still getting jobs?
The two programs (before and after the job guarantee) were apples-to-oranges. The program was 12 weeks, part-time [300 hrs] and is now 14 weeks and full-time [1000 hrs]. Their outcomes showed us that this model would work, but we're not going to rest on those.
How will you match students with jobs? Do you have hiring partners already?
There’s no substitute for hustle and the job search will always ultimately be in the hands of the graduate. That said, we spend significant time throughout the program covering areas relevant to the process like personal branding, resume preparation, interview practice, negotiations and more to make sure students have everything they need to take on the process. We’ll be working with partners as part of our global network to help students source jobs and we’ll be showing students off directly during their virtual demo day. We don’t succeed unless they do, so we support students in their job search for 6 months following the program.
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Erik Trautman attended App Academy in San Francisco, then created The Odin Project, a free online resource for students learning to be developers. After talking with students who needed more support in their online journey to code, Erik recently launched the Viking Code School, a selective online program complete with instructors and plenty of team work. We talk to Erik about his innovative model and how he's recreating the in-person bootcamp experience in an online platform.
Viking Code School is an online course, but students are working together in a cohort. How selective are you being in admissions?
One of the major differentiators of our program is that students are actually working directly with each other on projects; so the quality of your experience is affected by the other 7 people around you. Admissions is therefore very important and we’re highly selective about who we let in. We’re definitely trying to make sure that we surround students with the best possible classmates.
In general, admissions at Viking Code School looks more like one of the selective boot camps instead of the more open online programs, and that’s the intention. We’re more interested in focusing on quality and premium level outcomes than we are on appealing to absolutely everyone.
How did you decide on 8 students per class?
It was based on the number of students that we think an instructor is best suited to handle, as well as how many students it takes to feel like a part of a cohesive classroom unit. So there are enough students that you feel like you’re a part of something that’s strong and there are other students you can work with and bounce ideas off of but it isn’t too many students that you feel like you’re kind of lost. So I think 8 represented that middle ground for where you can achieve both those things.
Who are your instructors?
There are a half-dozen instructors, mentors and TAs on the website now. We’ve got a bunch of people from around the industry who are going to be on the mentoring side who will be providing periodic guidance and helping students out with questions that they have. Our TAs are going to be working more closely with the students directly and there are several of those as well. All in all, we’re going to end up having almost a 1:1 ratio of instructors, TAs and mentors to students.
How do you expect the community to form between the students online?
They’re going to be part of a classroom during the learning process so they’ll be attending Q&As together and some group learning sessions and helping each other with questions. The real meat of the program is actually having the students pair program on projects together. Every week is structured so that you spend some time learning on your own. But what we’re really emphasizing is at the end of every week, students are doing larger projects in small teams of students; they’ll work on those projects using remote collaboration tools.
That’s how we’re really hoping to help students get really close to each other and learn to work as part of a team as well.
What are these remote collaboration tools? Is it software that employees would use if they were remote developers to pair program with each other?
Yeah, and also video collaboration tools. There are all kinds of different software tools- they run the gamut from the beginner-friendly to the utterly obscure. We’re trying to gear towards ones that are a little bit more friendly on the beginner’s side so you don’t have to be too technical to understand.
I like that we’re also keeping things video-based because at least for me personally, I would rather feel like I’m sitting across from someone while we’re having a discussion than talking to a command line.
Do you see the Viking School as an extension of the Odin Project? Will the Odin Project still live on?
The Odin Project was always intended to be free and available and open to the people who want to use it. Viking Code School is designed to serve the groups of people who reached out to us saying they wanted more direct support as they went through the curriculum and to work with other students more as well. They wanted to have access to higher quality resources like exercise solutions and demos and the like.
The Viking Code School provides you with a lot higher levels of support and gives you access to much higher quality production level materials. We compress the timeline and squeeze what you might normally take a very long time with Odin into a much shorter time period and give you all the support and feedback that you need along the way.
Is the content of the curriculum the same as the Odin Project completely new?
There’s a little bit of crossover just because there are some resources that are the best out on the web and there’s no reason for us to reinvent the wheel. But there is a whole lot of content that’s newly produced, including instruction, demo and solution videos.
The Odin Project is a free resource- what does Viking Code School offer that requires students to pay for it?
For most of our students, the key thing is the support. A lot of students have said that they just don’t really have the motivation to stick with The Odin Project or want to get it done sooner or they want more feedback as they go through. Giving them access to the kind of support that we provide not only gives them answers when they have questions and increases the efficiency with which they can go through things, but also keeps them accountable for getting the work done, and that’s actually proven to be really valuable for people.
In the end of the day, there’s always a free do-it-yourself way of learning anything. What we’re trying to do is provide what you might get at any in-person school, which is a much more supportive learning environment that’ll help you get there more efficiently and with greater confidence in your path.
Who are the mentors and teachers that are working with you?
It’s a mix of different people. Some are people who have actually gone through the Odin Project and then taught on the Odin Project while others have worked as mentors or instructors at other bootcamps, and then others are friends that I know from around San Francisco in the industry who have something useful to offer our students.
What does a typical week look like? How hands-on is it?
Viking Code School will work in a very similar fashion to which you’d see at in-person boot camps; it’s more of a classroom model so we’re sort of expecting the student to learn on their own in a lot of ways using the resources that we provide in the early part of the week and then where we really want to be with them and where they ultimately need the most support is when they actually apply that knowledge by building projects or working on assignments later in the week.
Do you consider Viking Code School to be a Thinkful or Bloc competitor?
Not really because other programs like that don’t provide a complete and collaborative learning environment. What we’re trying to do is think more in terms of the whole package of what you would feel and receive in an in-person program, and just deliver that online. Other online programs are typically compartmentalizing mentorship and a curriculum without really bringing together everything in a structured classroom environment.
What did you learn from your experience at App Academy that you’ve been able to use with Viking Code School?
What all the in-person programs tend to do well is they provide a very focused curriculum, a whole lot of support, and a really build-focused environment, so that’s important for giving students a portfolio.
And they also – and this is the real key one that we’re really focusing on – they surround you with other students who are similarly motivated and qualified. And that can’t be understated because in some ways, you can fill a room with 20 students who are incredibly smart, motivated and capable people and just sort of point them in the general direction of a problem and amazing things will come out of it.
I don’t think the same is true of a random group of people. So the people you bring into your program and you go through your program with are very important in the ultimate outcome of the program, so that’s definitely another lesson that I’ve taken with me that’s informed the philosophy behind this new style of online program.
Will you be providing job support at the end of it or mentorships after the program ends?
Yeah. While we really don’t have the resources to offer a formal job placement program, we’re around after the program to help students take their next steps. We also have a “Week 13”, which is essentially pointing you in the right direction when you leave the program to achieve whatever the goal is that you’re ultimately hoping to achieve. Because obviously, we get a lot of people whose goal isn’t necessarily to get a job as a junior developer; we get a lot of people who are potential entrepreneurs, people who are already working in tech and just want to upgrade their skill sets as well, and them some people who are just really more interested in practicing their skills than getting a job.
That said, we do want to make sure that everyone has access to the right path so we’re trying to provide a mixture of a good set of resources, good support, and a good path forward after the program is officially ended.
For somebody who’s thinking about applying, who is your ideal student?
It’s more about the type of person than necessarily what their goal is or where they are in life. The way that we describe it is we want people who are capable, motivated and really good at communicating.
Students will come from a lot of different places. You don’t necessarily already need to know the technologies because we provide a lot of prep work as well to get people up to speed. So going into the program, we expect that you’ll already know a certain amount of things; but we give you all the resources that you need to learn those things – for free.
Tell us about the prep “mini-courses”…
I think those are another differentiator between us and a lot of the other programs- we’re really committed to giving away as much as we can to get people ready and able to come in the door with what they need.
One of our core philosophies in the program is that we want to produce not just code monkeys but we want to educate the whole engineer. What that means is you really need to understand more about the context of the products that you’re building. As an entrepreneur, you’re building products; you’re building websites for users so you need to understand how are those users thinking. That’s absolutely something that’s not covered in the vast majority of programs right now.
The way that we’re doing this is by providing them with a certain set of foundational building blocks in terms of contextual understanding.
Those building blocks are 4 different things: The web, design, engineering and coding. It starts with understanding the basics of the web and web development. The second prep course is on design because you need to understand the basics of things like UX which are terrifying to most new developers and coders. That doesn’t mean that we want to build graphic designers or build UX designers. We adopt the 80/20 rule and give you the opportunity to learn as much as you can and in a way which is relevant to your role as a developer.
Then we also have a course on engineering because I think again, from my experience going through an existing program and working with other students of programs has been that the singular focus on code has been at the cost of some of the broader engineering concepts. People come out and they feel like they don’t really understand engineering at all -- there’s a whole lot of “imposter syndrome”.
Our final prep unit is actually starting to get into the web markup and coding itself, which is a bit more self-explanatory. So like I said, you can get up to speed on important contextual knowledge before you go into the main program, which will focus more on coding within the construct of learning about things like teamwork and agile processes and the like.
Viking Code School requires 20 to 30 hours of work per week- that seems like more time required than most of the online programs.
The more focus you can devote to it, the more you’ll take out of it. You can do this with a job; you just have to make sure that you’re prepared to devote the kind of effort that it’s going to require. We don’t claim it’s easy, but it’s still easier than quitting your job and moving to a new city for a full time program.