Review of Truffle University: Blockchain Engineering Course
I highly recommend this program. Truffle University solves a unique need — advanced topics in Ethereum for experienced developers — versus others like the Consensys Blockchain Developer Course, which provides a technical introduction to Ethereum and the basics of smart contract development.
The Comprehensive Review
I’m a web developer from their inaugural cohort (June 2019) and with this post, I’ll try to outline what Truffle University offers and how it compares to my experience at Consensys’ Ethereum Developer Bootcamp. My goal here is to help you form expectations. These are purely my opinions— I didn’t receive compensation from anyone.
So what does Truffle University offer? You’ve probably read their marketing:
We’re building a world class training program to turn you, an existing software developer, into a professional paid blockchain engineer. You’ll learn the in’s and out’s of blockchain development, from theory to practice, becoming fully proficient with Truffle’s entire suite of tools. After you’ve completed the program, you’ll be referred to our exclusive partner network with over 50 companies vying for the best blockchain talent.
Truffle University screens applicants for both software development experience and a baseline understanding of Etherum. You should know how to use Truffle and you should understand the paradigm shift involved with building on Ethereum versus traditional software. If you’re looking for an in-depth introduction to Ethereum, I recommend Coursera’s Blockchain: Foundations and Use Cases (free, non-technical) or Consensys’ Blockchain Developer Bootcamp ($1K, highly technical).
Truffle University is a 6-week course, with 3-hour classes (mostly slide decks via Zoom screen share) twice per week. Each class offers a deep dive on a given topic, for instance, Gas in Ethereum: how it works, the cost of different opcodes, and how to adapt your code structure or logic to minimize gas costs. The sessions usually include a presentation from a Truffle Suite core developer, followed by Q&A.
The course is entirely project-based — there’s no homework or exercises or prep reading for any given class. Students can build their own independent project (here’s mine) or choose to contribute to Truffle Suite’s open-source projects, such as Truffle, Ganache or Drizzle, with guidance from their team.
Where Truffle University Excels
Professional developer support
Truffle University provides a Slack channel with direct access to Truffle developers throughout the course. This is HUGE for troubleshooting and mentorship! For example, I doubt I would have ever discovered how to interact with Ethereum’s mainnet in my local development environment without their team as a resource (thanks again, Mike Seese!). Definitely the most valuable feature of Truffle University.
The small class size (30 students in my cohort with only half in each class, vs. hundreds of students in my Consensys Bootcamp cohort) and the upfront screening Truffle University performs (they actually decline unqualified applicants, unlike the Consensys Bootcamp) allows for legitimate collaboration with a bright, diverse peer group. One-on-one discussions and code reviews with fellow classmates provides valuable project feedback.
Again, the upfront screening Truffle University performs makes for high-quality classmates. I value the connections I’ve made. Truffle also facilitates ways for our group to keep in touch, including continued access to our Slack channel and monthly Zoom sessions for us all to share new learnings.
Where Truffle University Fails
Overall, the course was a bit chaotic. I had the impression the course goals, the curriculum, and the hiring partner network were all being built on the fly. In their defense, while interviewing as a student for their first cohort, I was warned that Truffle University was an early work in progress. I give kudos to Truffle for covering our cohort’s tuition while they ironed out the kinks. I respect their bias towards action in pushing it into the open vs. over-preparing in the dark. I don’t expect this to be an ongoing issue as the program matures.
The class topics felt a bit scattered. Sometimes the subject of a class changed less than a day or two ahead of time (my guess is they had trouble coordinating guest developer’s schedules), which made it more difficult to prep for any upcoming topic. One class, our instructor even warned the slide deck was “very beta”. An advantage of this lack of structure was that the curriculum was quite flexible. The instructors were always receptive to feedback and keen to offer any particular subjects that we wanted to cover.
The curriculum also had a strong enterprise focus, including fully dedicated sessions to “Enterprise Ethereum” with Pegasys and “Managed Blockchain Services” with Kaleido, both products for private/consortium chains. I was turned off by this but perhaps it’s an area of interest for other developers (please leave a comment below if so!) and perhaps that’s where most of the blockchain jobs are? My hunch is that Truffle University simply favors other Consensys projects in the course material (one example: trumpeting the “IMPAKT stack”, which includes Consensys’ Pegasys as the “P” to cover Ethereum clients despite Geth and Parity being by far the most popular clients). I found this annoying but reasonable considering it’s likely easier for them to bring core developers from those teams to present to us. Just note that Truffle is a for-profit enterprise with roots in Consensys, a company that has a monetary incentive for developers to build on its products.
Providing an on-ramp to employment
This is another area I think Truffle will quickly solve but the upfront claims of connecting graduates to “hiring partners” did not pan out. The networking opportunities they provided at the end of the course were access to Hired and Indeed Prime profiles, both of which are free online services.
Caveat — I did find employment on my own shortly after graduating, so resources here may have improved since.
I had an excellent experience and highly recommend this course. The direct access to Truffle developers and collaboration opportunities with like-minded peers made this a worthwhile time investment. You’ll obviously have to take the tuition fees into account (I’m not sure what the cost of the program is — they sponsored this first cohort) but my hunch is that it will be worth it. You also might receive free tickets to TruffleCon :)
Thoughts? Questions? Please drop a comment below.