The Search for Coding Bootcamps

I figure I'll write about my personal experiences and how I decided which programs to apply to.

I looked for programs that had rigor, unquestionable track-records of success (job placement + average salary), and high standards. It was difficult to quantify success but I used job placement %'s and average salaries as a barometer. I also read Quora (it feels like I read all of Quora) and Yelp reviews and stalked the LinkedIn profiles of alums.

From my research, I narrowed it down to:

A few things specific to me that factored into my decision:

  • I would only consider three locations: (by priority) 1) SF, 2) NYC, 3) Seattle
  • I am a bit price inelastic. These bootcamps are all around the $12-18k range and I have the privilege of being okay with that.
  • I was open to either Ruby or JavaScript (notice the past tense--more about that later)

In the end, I settled on two: Hack Reactor and Fullstack Academy.

Before I get to the reasons why I chose those two, I'll go over the other bootcamps that I decided not to apply to.

Dev Bootcamp - 9 hours/day, 5 days/week, 9 weeks | SF & NYC (& Chicago)

Dev Bootcamp had three locations by the time I was looking at them and I was concerned that whatever standards that they started with had gotten watered down as they've expanded.

I also did not like the fact that they advertised themselves as an 18-week program when in fact it was really 9 weeks of on-site schooling. Don't try pulling your floofy marketing magic on me. It won't work.

Hackbright Academy - 8 hours/day, 5 days/week, 10 weeks | SF

I really did not want to not want to go here (does that make sense?). After being in such a male-dominated industry (commodities), I thought the idea of an all-female coding bootcamp was amazing!! But unfortunately, I got the sense the sense that Hackbright starts you off at 0 and that the pace was very..."friendly."

Hackbright really tries to make the transition as smooth as possible for women, which is great! But it's not for me. I need that extra oomph! from both the students and the program and I just never got that impression from Hackbright.

I was also hesitant about learning Python, but more about that later.

App Academy - 9 hours/day, 5 days/week, 12 weeks | NYC

App Academy does not require payment until after you graduate. Then they take 18% of your first year salary. The average SF salary coming out of that program is $105k. 18% of that is $18.9k. That's pretty pricey and akin to paying interest on deferring payment. I do not need to defer payment.

Their curriculum also seemed a bit all over the place and I felt like that lack of focus would lead to a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none scenario.

Flatiron School - 9 hours/day, 5 days/week, 12 weeks | NYC

In general, I am skeptical of schools that have multiple programs and Flatiron had differenet tracks--web development, iOS development, etc. I was concerned about the difference in quality of teaching.

Flatiron also seemed too easy to get into. It seems like they expect just a minimal level of coding and I wanted a meatier program.

That said, Flatiron does have an awesome fellowship called the NYC Web Development Fellowship" which gives scholarships to those who are eligible.

The opinions above are my own, formed at countless hours of Googling. There were certain things that appealed to me that may not appeal to you, so please don't let me sway your decision.

From my research, I can confidently say that those are all great programs but just did not have the perfect combination of what I am looking for.

JavaScript vs. Ruby

During my search for bootcamps, it became distinctly apparently that I would have to choose between two very popular languages.

I read numerous articles and was told by numerous people that the language you choose is not important at all. But then again, it would suck learning Ruby and then realizing all the jobs I want require JavaScript (and vice versa).

This Quora question (and the answers) were really informative and helped me understand the differences, advantages, and disadvantages with each language.

I ended up going with JavaScript and what really pushed me over the edge was in some random article that I stumbled across: you can avoid Ruby, but you cannot avoid JavaScript in web development.

Well, decision made.

Hack Reactor and Fullstack Academy

I cannot find negative reviews of these schools. I challenge you to find a bad review. I came across a few weird inflammatory posts and skeptical commenters, but no one who had actually attended and come away with a negative experience.

I was really impressed by the admissions process at Hack Reactor--to access the application, you had to solve a little coding problem. It was really well thought out and it made me look forward to the next step. If their admissions process is so delightful, it says a lot about their curriculum.

Hack Reactor also gives off the impression of a really intense program, which is exactly what I like. All the other bootcamps try to do the same, but it's Hack Reactor that really shows it. The curriculum is 12 weeks, like most, but they have 6 days of instruction and scheduled time, with longer hours (11 vs. an average of 8-9). Plus, just from the reviews and experiences alone, it seems like Hack Reactor expects applicants to already have achieved a certain level of programming skill before applying.

Fullstack Academy is a relatively new player on the bootcamp block but they gave me the same impression Hack Reactor gave--very precise and intense course with high expectations for the students.

The CTO curriculum also greatly appealed to me. It distinguishes Fullstack from other bootcamps and they seem much more open to supporting entreprenuers whereas some bootcamps (Dev, Flatiron, App) seemed to really push graduates towards getting jobs.

Off I go!