Bloc’s Software Engineering Track: The CS Degree Killer

A Brief History of Bootcamps

The last five years have been host to exciting innovations at the cross section of technology and education. Codecademy’s Code Year launched in January 2012 under the banner of “coding is the new literacy” where we witnessed the unlikely celebrities of Mayor Bloomberg and Will.I.Am championing the democritazation of technical skills. Udacity and Coursera brought lecture material from Ivy League universities to the masses. Pluralsight, Lynda, and Udemy built libraries of video lessons, and the fledgling bootcamp industry emerged.

Will.i.am at Dreamforce. Credit: Salesforce.

At Bloc, we remember the origins of this industry well, as we first began mentoring students from our home/office over Google Hangout sessions and Shereef Bishay taught the first Dev Bootcamp cohort over on Market Street in San Francisco. Founders of several other bootcamps –Hack Reactor, App Academy, and Hackbright — would emerge from the first Dev Bootcamp cohort. General Assembly shifted from a Manhattan co-working space into vocational technology classrooms. Traditional technology education was stale, expensive, and disconnected from its goal of creating job-ready graduates. Bootcamps offered a better way for students to start careers in technology by focusing entirely on pragmatic training in web development. In an eight week program,* students learned enough to land a career at tech companies whose need for developers and designers was not met by traditional education.

Employer-Driven Education

Bootcamps emerged from challenging an assumption of higher education and asking the question: what skills do employers really want? And do those skills require 4 years, $80,000 and an “accredited” degree to learn? Coding bootcamps improved education for aspiring developers by starting from the skills employers want and working backward from there. Bootcamps range from 10–24 weeks, cost $10–21k, and often provide better outcomes than most colleges. Today, there are over 100 bootcamps with a combined estimated market of $180M, up from $0 in 2011.**

After initial skepticism, engineering leaders and hiring managers have been pleasantly surprised by how much bootcamp graduates learn in a short period of time. Bootcamp grads focus 100% on pragmatic developer training and they are capable of producing their first day on-the-job. They’ve built applications in modern web stacks, have experience working collaboratively using Git and GitHub, and understand how to ship features from idea to deployment.

However, if traditional computer science education had become too divorced from pragmatic developer training, bootcamps may have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction and lack some of the foundational principles of software engineering.

Here’s what employers are saying:

“Students leave knowing how to build a web app and write basic JS but there is NO instinct for when to use it or why they are using a tool.That was a huge part of undergrad that I’m uncovering only because I’m seeing this other side.”
Engineer, Nest/Google
“[Bootcamp grads] can often code regular problems but don’t understand what goes on under the covers. Since much of my experience is with mobile devices, understanding what happens underneath a call to an algorithm or the use of a data structure can be critical to get desired performance.”
Adam Fineman, Director of Platform Architecture at Amazon
“[Bootcamp grads often lack] computational understanding of what will cause problems with scale [and understanding the] nuances of different languages and what they are good for and why as opposed to just how to use them.”
Matthew Mengerink, VP of Engineering at YouTube
“The hiring market is saturated with people coming out of bootcamps — we can hire a few but don’t want to hire too many. The other thing we really like to see is someone who graduated from a bootcamp, then did something “real” — a job elsewhere, or an apprenticeship, or created a startup. Then we consider them on par with someone with a CS degree.”
— Ross Bell, Engineering Manager at Trunk Club

The majority of the employers we spoke with have hired bootcamp graduates and are happy with those hires. Employers are generally impressed with how much a bootcamp grad can learn in such a short period of time, but concede that — despite its flaws — computer science universities are teaching their students for four years and it’s difficult for any bootcamp to compete with that. Bootcamps are a breakthrough over traditional education, but there are opportunities for improvement by preserving some of the fundamentals of a computer science degree.

The Software Engineering Track

Using feedback from the most highly regarded engineering teams at companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, today we’re launching Bloc’s Software Engineering Track. We’re taking the pragmatic training of a bootcamp and combining it with the foundational principles of software engineering to create a program that is a cut above every other bootcamp and computer science university.

The program will be 48-week full-time or 72-week part-time, online, and cost $24,000. It will be broken up into four phases:

  • Backend Web Development
  • Frontend Web Development
  • Software Engineering Principles
  • Open Source Apprenticeship or Paid Internship

The first half of the program covers the curriculum of most bootcamps as students learn full stack web development. The second half incorporates feedback from employers to teach the principles of software engineering: data structures, algorithms, relational databases, and framework design. In the final phase, students work on creating and contributing to open source projects, while some eligible students may apply for a paid internship at Bloc (and eventually other employer partners).

To demonstrate our confidence in this program, we’re offering full tuition reimbursement if students are unable to find a new career within 120 days of graduating.***

The Future of Technology Education

With our new program that combines the best elements of traditional computer science education and vocational developer bootcamps, we will produce software engineers that are ounce for ounce as good as those from MIT, Stanford, and even our own alma mater the University of Illinois. Computer science education is evolving, and we are preparing students to excel in an economy where every company is a technology company.

Learn more about Bloc’s Software Engineering Track.

Footnotes:

* The first DevBootcamp and Bloc programs were 8 weeks long.

** From Course Report’s 2015 Bootcamp Market Size Study: https://www.coursereport.com/resources/course-report-2015-bootcamp-market-size-study

*** Including other restrictions.