Jhonnatan Rangel
5 min readJun 23, 2020

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Coding from zero to hero: THP mode

Photo by Danial RiCaRoS on Unsplash

This is my experience as a recent graduate of The Hacking Project (THP for the family & friends), a coding bootcamp based in France.

We all know that when it comes to coding bootcamps, there are a lot of options out there. So what made me choose THP? It comes down to 3 main factors:

  1. Afforadable cost (10x less than a traditional bootcamp)
  2. Learning philosophy (peer learning)
  3. Lots of free time due to COVID-19

Let’s be honest, I wanted to learn how to code but I had no money to afford a traditional bootcamp. I have done some tutorials on my own but I needed some structure & some sort of community to rely on. THP offered all of this for the right price! This was a big driver for me.

I was intrigued about THP’s philosophy. Basically, there are no facilities, no teachers and every student is responsible for his or her own learning process by relying on peers. This is peer learning philosophy at its best. I’ll explain below how it works in action.

Like many people in the world, I found myself in indefinite quarantine due to COVID-19. All of a sudden I had a lot of time on my hands (and no money of course) and it was the perfect time to learn a new skill. In a way, the stars aligned for me to attempt going from zero to hero in coding!

In 12 weeks I learned the basics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby and Ruby on Rails (RoR for the friends). Prior to this, I had some very basic knowledge of HTML and CSS but I didn’t know any Ruby or Javascript.

In normal circumstances (#NoCovid) THP students have to find their own place to code in groups. Remember, THP doesn’t have facilities. Some go to a coworking space, local library, someone’s place or even rent a villa for 3 months (true story)! Whatever the choice, when you sign up for THP you make the commitment to be available everyday (Monday — Friday) starting at 9:00 AM. Unfortunately, meeting in person was not possible as we were in strict quarantine, but we could all “meet” online through a Discord server.

Every morning you go to THP website and check out the resources for the day. There will find some basic tutorials of what you should learn that day. Based on what you learned that morning, you will do some excercises in pair programming that afternoon. So, no teachers to guide you through what you are learning. Instead THP community are always available via Discord and Slack to help you out with your questions. The community is THP alumni and other learners like you. This is one of the fundamentals of peer learning, you learn better by teaching!

Twice a week there is a “validating project”. These are small projects that you have to submit to be graded by your peers. Yes, remember I told you that there are no teachers at THP? Well, as a student you must grade 2 projects for every project you submit. Again, peer learning at its best!

The projects are graded based on a rubric. You talk on the phone (or Discord) with the person you grade and ask questions if you wish. The grading rubric is not numeric, it only helps you determine if the project is acceptable or not.

For every “failing” project you lose a Joker. A Joker is like a wild card and you start with 3. If by the end of the bootcamp you have no more Jorkers left, you are what they call a pirate. I managed to finish the 12 weeks of bootcamp with all 3 of my Jokers, which I am personally very proud of.

On week 9, the cohort breaks up into teams of 5 to code from scratch an online store that sells cat photos (#random). This is a milestone because you get to use what you have learned over the previous 8 weeks of coding. Also, this project allows you to put in practice Git and Github branching to work on a same repository. Let me tell you that it was not easy at all to organize a team project. But that was the goal, to get you out of your comfort zone.

During the last 2 weeks of the bootcamp you have to come up with a business idea to code with your team. It could be anything as long as you put into practice what you’ve learned. This is the final project and trust me that it was not a piece of cake.

With my team we worked long hours to be able to deliver a MVP that was functional. Once this is done, you submit your project and it is evaluated by an external jury. The jury determines if your project met the requirements for you to become a Privateer. However, if you use all your Jokers and you “fail” the final project, you become a Pirate.

Our project was accepted by the jury and I am proud to call myself a Privateer!

Take home message

There are a few things I would like to share about this experience. In general terms, I recommend it. However, this kind of bootcamp is not for everyone as it requires a lot of self-motivation, a great deal of independence and the ability to speak French. Yes, unfortunately this program is currently only available for French speakers. Let’s hope one day THP is available in other languages (wink wink). It is also important to mention that doing THP requires a big time commitment. Some days I coded for more than 14 hours to keep up with the pace. Yes, the pace is pretty intense if you are not used to it. But it is very gratifying to see how your coding skills go from zero to hero at the end of 12 very intense (and very often frustrating) weeks of peer learning.

You can see my coding journey here (spoiler alert: it’s messy). If you want to learn more about The Hacking Project, feel free to reach out — they are cool people always open to chat with you.

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Jhonnatan Rangel

1st gen PhD survivor, linguist, activist, geek & coffee addict. I play with human & computer languages.