Last month, I was one of twenty eager technology professionals looking to upgrade our skill set by participating in Code Fellows‘ first Ruby on Rails bootcamp. It’s a four-week, all-day bootcamp where you learn Ruby on Rails from the ground up in a classroom setting. It’s been a few weeks now and the Code Fellows crew are already well underway accepting the next batch of hackers, so for those of you still debating whether to apply or to accept an offer to join, allow me to tell you why you should take the plunge.
1. You get a job!
Code Fellows’ mantra is “Learn to Code. Get a job. Guaranteed.” and, spoiler warning, it works. Three of us had accepted offers before the bootcamp was even over. Personally, in the weeks after the program I had interviewed with three companies and received three offers and I know there are other classmates in a similar boat. Throughout the program you’re exposed to a multitude of local companies that are hiring and all of them are interested in interviewing students. Initially I was concerned that companies would be leery of such green Rails rookies but since most of us had complementary skills such as front end development, UX designer, or database administration, I think companies were excited to talk to us for hybrid roles.
2. Learn Rails the Fun Way
The two instructors, Brook Riggio and Ivan Storck, were awesome. These are two guys that know their shit. You don’t learn Ruby or Rails from a “here’s every single nuance of the language and framework, 80% of which you’ll never see again” but instead from a perspective of how Rails development works in the real world. Brook and Ivan are active members of the Rails community and presented us with up-to-date information. They’re not like a college professor that learned how to program decades ago and still uses the same textbook from his college days (Actually, the book we used isn’t even released to print yet), but instead they’re two guys that still do consulting work, contribute to active open-source projects, and vigorously keep current with trends in the community.
My one piece of advice is if you do get into Code Fellows, leverage your wisely time with Brook and Ivan. They make themselves wholly accessible and it is so helpful to be able to wheel over to an expert and ask a question, no matter how simple. Ask as much as you can while you can!
3. Quality Mentoring
Part of the Code Fellows experience is getting paired up with a mentor to help you grow into your new role as a Rails developer. You’ll schedule time with your mentor for one-on-one conversations and the directions of these meetings is up to you. My mentor was Jeff Reinecke, senior engineer at WhitePages. He has years of Rails experience, is involved in the hiring of new engineers at his company, and just an overall nice guy. He offered invaluable advice on how to prepare for interviews for Rails positions, the engineering qualities that’d be most valued by a company, and even offered to review the code of my team’s project. I never heard anyone complain about their mentor; in fact, we would start recommending our mentors to other classmates that we thought could help each other. By the end of the program, I definitely had more than the one mentor I was assigned.
4. Weekly talks from Seattle techies
Every Friday the Code Fellows team will bring in a pair of speakers to talk to us about a variety of helpful topics surrounding the life of a Seattle engineer. We had CEOs come in to talk to us about what value most in a developer, COOs coaching us on how to negotiate a salary, senior engineers detailing how to stay current and active in the Rails community, lead designers describing optimal user experiences, startup founders on how to bootstrap a company, and just so many other great speakers. They really covered the gamut.
5. Your network will explode
Code Fellows is held within the offices of Founders Co-op which is operated by arguably Seattle’s two leading seed investors Andy Sack and Chris Devore. Within these walls are some of the coolest early-stage startups in the Seattle area and every one of them are eager to talk with and mentor the Code Fellows students. This is the epicenter of Seattle’s startup scene and it’s an invigorating hive of activity, especially with the current crop teams of Microsoft Azure TechStars joining in.
6. You’ll make sustaining connections with your classmates
Since Code Fellows is an invitation-only kind of program, the managing team spends time finding truly qualified and quality people to take part of the program. In a typical classroom setting, you expect for there to always to be one or two people that will slow down the pace of the class or just be a constant annoyance, but I was amazed at how well we all got along and how friendly and helpful we were to each other. Even though Code Fellows ended over two weeks ago, I’m still hanging out with some classmates every day. Just think, you’re all here and were chosen to be there for the same reason: you’re a motivated person that loves to sling code, so it’s real easy to identify and click with these other people.
I feel like I’ve written a novel yet I’ve barely scratched the surface of my Code Fellows experience. I think you can gather by now that I felt it was an entirely worthwhile experience and I’m sure it’ll be just as good for you. Hopefully our class worked out all of the kinks and trust me when I say we’re all jealous you’ll get to spend an additional two more weeks in the program. If you’re on the fence about applying, jump down and just do it. It costs nothing to apply and everyone involved is kind, helpful and eager to help create a new generation of Seattle software engineers. You won’t regret it.
So now that I’ve completed the course, what’s next for me? As I mentioned earlier I had three truly awesome offers right out of the gate and if I needed to take steady employment right this minute, I could easily do so. However, I’ve always had that startup itch and after being in this inspiring environment for over a month now, I feel like it’s time for me to take the plunge. Code Fellows helped round out my development skill set and transition into a full-stack engineer. It has given me the confidence to programmatically tackle the idea I’ve been kicking around in my head and I haven’t been this excited to be working on something in a long time.
I hope this has been helpful and in the spirit of the program, I’d be glad to help anyone who has further questions.