I recently graduated from Fullstack Academy’s 17-week Software Engineering Immersive program. I wanted to write about my experience there because I have so many thoughts and feelings about it that I haven’t been able to properly articulate to anyone.
Stay tuned for more posts on this topic as I use blogging as an outlet for processing my experience.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Fullstack Academy is an immersive software engineering program, or a coding bootcamp. Months of existential crisis, job dissatisfaction, self-learning, as well as meeting the right person at the right time, led me to choose to participate in a bootcamp.
How It Began
My first coding experience was when I taught myself SQL, so I could be better at my first job out of college (I was a Business major. I did not write any code in college except for Excel macros/VBA, which I’m not sure counts).
My first coding experience was in middle school when Myspace first came out. I would spend hours ‘coding’ to make my profile’s layout exactly the way I wanted, and in the process unknowingly learned a lot of HTML. Those were the days when styling was done inline, so it was easy to spend the entire day making little 1px tweaks to make my page look perfect!
Before playing with layouts in Myspace, there was a magical software called AIM (AOL INSTANT MESSENGER) that allowed us kids to emerge from the dark ages of friendship, the days of playing phone tag, and communicate with one another at any time, with as many people as we liked, as long as we were on a computer. Was that before Myspace or after? I’m confused now.
This BuzzFeed article sums up how awesome AIM was:
21 Signs You Were Addicted To AIM While Growing Up https://www.buzzfeed.com/oliviaroat/21-signs-you-were-addicted-to-aim-while-growing-up-ehzv?utm_term=.gjWKlpkmlZ&sub=0_3477242#3477242
Anyways, there was a thing called AIM Buddy Profiles, which you could customize like a simpler Myspace profile that your friends could view. People would put fun life quotes, like ‘YOU SUCK’, or cute emojis there (not the modern emoji — we had to make our own back then. o(^___^)o ) You could interpolate different things, like today’s date or the name of the person who was viewing your profile, to seem extra cool 8) or creepy. (i.e. ‘YOU SUCK, %n!’ would show up as ‘YOU SUCK, soccerboii2667!’)
The good old days were middle school. Life was much simpler. I was never cool (I may never be) and was made fun of for being a nerdy AZN, but I didn’t care that much. In a way, I was much more myself in middle school than I was as a young adult (high school and college), or sometimes even now. I didn’t worry so much about getting a good job, following a tried and true path to success (I was a pre-med business major), satisfying my parents (I was a pre-med business major), or rebelling against my parents (I will NEVER be an engineer like them). I just had my hobbies, like reading and solving cryptography puzzles (which I even went to summer camp for). There were things I just enjoyed doing, not things I did for my college application or for my job hunt.
Picking up coding years later, during a time when I felt hyper-disconnected with myself and my job, made me remember the good times I had as a kid and made me curious about pursuing it as a career. I had always been stunned, curious, and interested in awesome websites and applications and this was my chance to learn to create one.
It seemed like a good investment. Worst case scenario, with technology becoming more and more ubiquitous, I would be better at whatever business/tech related job I’d get in the future. Best case scenario, I’d stumble upon a career that made me feel fulfilled and find a job that I didn’t dread in the morning.
Why Fullstack Academy?
Once I decided I was going to a bootcamp, I had pretty strict criteria for selecting one, after getting advice from someone who had gone through the process.
- The bootcamp had to report outcomes through CIRR. With bootcamps being trendy and profitable, there are lots of crappy ones out there who just take your money, without good results to back up their teaching.
- It had to be highly rated by students who had gone through the program. SwitchUp and CourseReport have student reviews. Given the amount of bootcamps in existence, I think this is also important because it speaks to the actual value students think they have gained from attending.
- It needed to have a selective admissions process: an assessment to be admitted, at the very least. Many coding bootcamps, like General Assembly (not to hate on their program), let any students who are willing to pay, into the program. This makes me feel like I would just be put in a classroom with people who think they can throw money at a bootcamp and receive some desired end result. For people who are good at doing things all by themselves, I think that’s fine. I, on the other hand, wanted and needed to be surrounded by like-minded people who could study together or support each other. I wanted to be with people who were up to a certain level, who put effort into getting in, so that we could all continue advancing at a good pace. With a non-selective process, I felt like I could end up in a group with too wide a range of skill, with people who haven’t yet tried coding yet, and that could slow everyone down.
- It needed to be full-time and in-person. This was much more of a personal preference, as I’ve heard many immersive remote or part-time programs have been great. I wasn’t interested in doing this while I was working because I wanted to focus my full efforts on the bootcamp, and I was not happy at my job anyway. Also, I wanted to be able to interact with other students and teachers in person, and be able to grab lunch or hang out after class if I was going to be staring at the computer all day.
- Not in SoCal. This wasn’t a big requirement, but I was kind of sick of living in Los Angeles at the time (born and raised, went to USC), and I wanted to try living somewhere new. It would be like studying abroad!
The office space they were at in Chicago (1871 at Merchandise Mart) was offering a scholarship that made the program a lot cheaper than comparable ones, on top of the lower cost of living in Chicago compared to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. I had never been to Chicago, but I had always heard great things and was interested in experiencing the winter for once. It was my first choice!
My pair-programming interview with Fullstack (after completing an assessment) gave me an idea of what people at the Chicago location were like, and it was a joy going through the problem together. It was a plus to me that Chicago was the newer location, because that meant a smaller class size. Everyone I interacted with during the process was personal and down-to-earth.
I was ecstatic to have gotten into Fullstack because I had already quit my job, and during an interview at a more established bootcamp (won’t say which one), the guy who interviewed me did his laundry as I talked through the problem on a recorded video chat. The whole process with them was very impersonal, and despite their good reputation, I knew I did not want to go there. I had my heart set on Fullstack and believe I made the right choice!
More posts to come about the bootcamp experience!