Practicum Bootcamp
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Practicum Bootcamp

Studying at a Tech Bootcamp: Why Support is Essential for Your Success

Tech bootcamps are hard. They mean summoning up your courage and taking risks, forgetting your ego for a while, and studying 20 hours a week rather than spending time with your family, playing sports, or taking it easy. And that’s on top of all of your other commitments.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many people in bootcamps fail to meet deadlines and lose motivation due to a lack of support. As a result, they decide to quit.

Since it launched in February 2019, Practicum has striven not to be “just another bootcamp.” We set ourselves an ambitious goal: to help students land the tech jobs of their dreams. As a result, 70% of our job-seeking graduates over the past year and a half have been hired. This accomplishment is due in large part to the support that students get from day one. Our educational support team, code reviewers, tutors, and community managers help students maintain motivation and interest in their new professions, master complex concepts, and learn how to put them into practice.

We spoke with Senior Customer Service Manager Andrey Ivashurov and learned how Practicum’s support system helps students stay the course and complete the program.

The support team: helping students understand what to expect from the bootcamp

Many future students aren’t sure what to expect from a bootcamp: “Will I be able to find time for it, maintain a balance between working and studying, stay motivated, and make it to the end of the program…?” What if things get overwhelming? Who will come to the rescue?

To give students a sense of what awaits them, Practicum offers free 20-hour intro courses that involve interaction with our support team. Our specialists are available 24/7 to tell students how our platform and programs work, help them make sense of tasks, and resolve technical issues. The team might, for instance, review a snippet of code and point out errors. Students come to understand that no one is going to abandon them.

The Practicum support team is made up of specialists with various levels of expertise. All team members undergo in-house training and are ready to answer the most common questions. The most experienced members, who generally have backgrounds in web development or programming, answer more complex technical questions.

The job of the support team is not to give ready-made solutions, but to help students develop insight into how errors occurred and how to fix them.

Code reviewers: the art of feedback

Any tech specialist must be able to accept constructive criticism. For a novice developer, this skill is especially important. When you program a new feature, it doesn’t get released right away; instead, your code is submitted for review, and errors, stylistic shortcomings, poor code design, and other issues are identified. You get tons of comments on your work, and you need to be able to handle it well.

At Practicum, each module ends with a code review in which an experienced specialist analyzes the student’s project and gives feedback.

Practicum’s code reviewers have jobs in the tech industry and strong technical backgrounds. They don’t communicate directly with students via Slack or any other messenger, and they don’t take part in webinars. Their job is to analyze students’ work, identify the shortcomings and strengths of code, and give clear feedback. Each student gets one of three grades:

  • All’s well: the work is high-quality, nothing needs to be redone, you’re good to go.
  • Potential for improvement: the code reviewer highlights what could be improved and what has been done well.
  • Should be revised: the code reviewer identifies what doesn’t work and why, makes suggestions on improving the project, and highlights what needs to be revised.

Before grading their first project, each code reviewer undergoes training at Practicum. This process is carefully supervised by a senior code reviewer and includes webinars and discussions on analyzing projects and giving feedback that motivates rather than discourages. Our goal is to ensure that code reviewers approach projects with care and share their expertise with students.

As a result, students get used to looking at their own work objectively, considering different points of view, accepting criticism calmly, and correcting errors.

Tutors: keeping you motivated

At some point, students might start losing motivation: there’s plenty of work, the technology is all new, and a lot of cognitive effort is required. It’s unclear whether they should slow down and practice or keep on moving forward. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important that you be able to reach an experienced specialist who will encourage you and tell you how they coped with similar difficulties. Here we’re dealing with the deeper levels of motivation.

Practicum has a sort of meta-position for cases like this: tutor. Tutors are specialists who support students throughout the entire program. They all have solid professional backgrounds and are ready to share their real-life experience and insights into the industry. They will tell about the challenges they themselves faced in the past and how they overcame them. They also help students with questions about the course material and explain how and when to use different techniques.

Tutors don’t check students’ code or projects. Their job is to share their experience and shed light on concepts, tasks, and difficult moments in lessons.

We hire tutors carefully, considering many candidates and shortlisting professionals with at least 3–5 years of experience in the tech industry. We pay attention not only to the tech stack candidates are familiar with, but also to their soft skills and potential: team motivation, time management, communication, and building dialogue, trust, and partnership. We received up to 300 applications from candidates who met our criteria, and only 20 to 30 people subsequently became tutors.

In light of the great interest in these positions, we created the Practicum Tutor Academy. It’s not only for those who want to become tutors, but also for those who want vertical promotions or, for example, want to boost their soft skills.

Tutors conduct live sessions and webinars where they answer students’ questions or discuss specific topics. Between sessions, students can contact them on Slack if they have urgent questions.

Community managers: always by your side

Maintaining a positive atmosphere is extremely important in an educational environment where students interact with each other frequently and complete group projects. In a comfortable and safe environment, no one feels better or worse than others. Students communicate openly, don’t hesitate to ask each other questions, and ultimately learn faster and more efficiently.

To foster such an atmosphere at Practicum, we created the role of community manager. Their task is to organize the work process within a group to ensure that everything goes smoothly, students get up-to-date information on time, and organizational issues get solved quickly.

At a deeper level, a community manager plays the role of your companion, a person who’s always by your side. They unobtrusively accompany you as you progress through the program and help you smooth out whatever wrinkles need smoothing out. Community managers essentially create a link between the product and the student.

A bootcamp is a chance to enter a new profession in a relatively short period of time. It’s also a very serious responsibility. In a bootcamp, you will face daily challenges that can sometimes be demoralizing. That’s why it’s important to find a course where you feel supported and listened to.

When creating Practicum, we thought not only about what the market needs, but about what students need to make it through our programs.

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