I’ve had quite a few people respond to my complaints about Pay It Forward with, “But you wouldn’t have your job if you didn’t go to that bootcamp. Shouldn’t you just pay Pursuit?” It is a miracle I found a tech job at all. If I was put up against grads of other bootcamps, I would not stand a chance.
When I came to Pursuit, I was committed to putting my all into the nine-month program. During my time as a Fellow, there were multiple incidents that made me question Pursuit’s professionalism and common sense. I did not leave the program because I would still be bound to the Pay It Forward agreement if I found a tech job on my own. I tried to make the best of it, but I constantly found my patience being tested. I recognized an inequality existed between full-time and part-time students. Pursuit was not worth the price.
These are five major incidents that happened during my time as a Nights and Weekends (N+W) Fellow in the 4.0 cohort (2017–2018). I wish I could list all the issues that arose, but that would fill a book. At the time, there were four class sections: Daytime Web, N+W Web, Daytime iOS, and N+W Android. All class sections were a nine-month program. An N+W Fellow attends part-time.
1. My Nights and Weekends (N+W) Web class was expected to cover the same material as the Daytime Web class and in the same amount of time.
For my N+W Web class, the curriculum and tests were written by the Daytime instructors. My instructor had to rush to teach my class what we needed to know for the test. Once in a while, he had to give my class small hints during the exams because there was info we didn’t cover and it was critical for a passing grade.
There was no way my N+W class could cover the same material as Daytime. N+W had 25 hours of class per week and Daytime had 40 hours. This class time was not solely devoted to technical learning. Non-technical instruction could take up a half-day or a full day of class time a week.
My N+W class barely covered what we needed for technical interviews and portfolio projects. More time should have been dedicated to learning Data Structures and Algorithms, which are needed to pass technical interviews. There should have been more guidance for group and individual portfolio projects. It was embarrassing for me to go on interviews and not be able to answer basic whiteboarding questions and have to explain why my projects were missing basic components, such as unit testing.
2. Pursuit constantly canceled office hours, which was an opportunity for Fellows to get 1-on-1 help with technical assignments and network with a volunteer from the tech world.
Pursuit only called in a volunteer for office hours if enough Fellows signed up. I did not know about this rule. It was never announced and it was not written in the handbook or the calendar appointment. I found out the hard way when my appointment was canceled the day of because I was the only one who signed up. Not even my Program Manager (PM) knew about this practice until I told her. This was bad because a PM is responsible for knowing Pursuit’s policies and making sure Fellows stay on track.
Pursuit’s decision to cancel office hours made no sense to me. Why bother to list office hours as a service if it was conditional and why make the condition a secret? If one Fellow signed up, a volunteer should have been called. This was supremely unfair to Nights and Weekends (N+W) Fellows. N+W Fellows only had one day a week for office hours and they had to come on a day when they didn’t have class. The Daytime class had two days of office hours per week and theirs took place one hour after their classes ended for the day.
3. Pursuit instructed me to list them under work experience instead of education on my resume and LinkedIn profile.
In no way was Pursuit’s coding program work experience. Pursuit was advising me to lie. Resumes and LinkedIn profiles approved by Pursuit were required for graduation. It was not okay to require Fellows to compromise their integrity in order to graduate.
You may wonder why I didn’t just change my resume and LinkedIn after they were graded. I couldn’t because, to apply to a job with some of Pursuit’s partners, I had to submit my resume directly to Pursuit. I didn’t want to risk my job prospects by submitting a non-approved resume.
I did run into problems when I interviewed with companies that did not know about Pursuit. My interviewer would see Pursuit listed under work experience and ask me questions about it as though it were a job. I felt uncomfortable trying to figure out a way to explain Pursuit was a bootcamp while trying to salvage my credibility.
4. Pursuit relied on volunteers to grade assignments and administer exams required for graduation.
Pursuit heavily relied on volunteers to grade Job Portfolio documents (resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles) and conduct and grade mock behavioral interviews and mock technical interviews. There were occasions when volunteers canceled or showed up late. If Pursuit could not find a replacement, the affected Fellows sometimes had to wait for weeks until they were rescheduled.
Pursuit burdened volunteers with deciding if a Fellow met graduation requirements. This was a burden because the only passing grade for Job Portfolio documents and the mock behavioral interview was 100%. It’s one thing to ask volunteers to give feedback on assignments and mock interviews. It’s another thing to ask these volunteers to issue a grade that determines whether a Fellow is on track to graduate.
5. Pursuit communicated its expectations so poorly and was so disorganized with posting grades that Fellows didn’t even know they were not on track to graduate.
In the previous point, I mentioned Pursuit set the passing grade for some assignments and exams as 100%. Instead of explicitly communicating that, Pursuit decided to use very convoluted and fluffy language. Pursuit said Fellows had to be rated as proficient in each scoring criteria in order to pass the assignment or exam. Most Fellows did not know that meant the passing grade was 100%. Pursuit further confused the Fellows by issuing number scores (such as 21 out of 25) for these assignments and exams. Pursuit should have just simplified things and issued a “Pass” or “Fail” grade.
One month before graduation, each Fellow received an email about missing graduation requirements. A lot of the Fellows were in shock and disbelief when we found out we had “failed” some items and had to complete retakes. Even Fellows one point off from passing had to do retakes. We had handed in these assignments and taken these exams months ago, but we had never received the grades for some of them. I told my Program Manager about this and she had to check the online blackboard. It turned out that the grades and comments had been set to hidden and were never released after the volunteers had submitted grades. When it came to the retakes, Pursuit continued to rely on volunteers and do a poor job of preparing Fellows. When I did my second mock behavioral interview, some of my classmates still did not know the only passing grade was 100%.
Finding a tech job after finishing Pursuit’s program was very difficult. If I got an interview through Pursuit, I failed the technical interview because my class did not cover the topics I needed to know. If I got an interview on my own with a company not-affiliated with Pursuit, it was for an unpaid internship or a low-paying apprenticeship or job. One apprenticeship actually paid less than my non-tech job at the time.
I did get an offer three months after graduation. I had actually started job-searching before graduation. I had sent out resumes for a total of six months. I am lucky to have found a tech job in that time frame considering the education at Pursuit was not very good. I have no idea why I received an offer because I feel I did so terribly during the interview process. I believe my employer saw my potential and had the capacity to mentor a junior developer at the time.
I did find my employer through Pursuit, but I want my readers to know that facilitated opportunities like this do not mean the employer will definitely hire a Pursuit graduate. I also want my readers to know that my income is nowhere near the $85,000 average listed on Pursuit’s website. My income is just above the $60,000 threshold required to start paying my ISA with Pursuit.