So, who am I talking to? How did you end up as the Full Time Web Development Bootcamp’s program manager?
Hi! I’m Bhaumik. I actually started at Thinkful as a Front End Web Development student over three years ago, in one of the school’s first cohorts. Since then, I’ve been focused on making our students successful in a few different roles. When our co-founder Dan asked me to think about leading this new program, I was hesitant because I’m not an engineer. But it turns out, my experience as a student lets me deeply understand exactly what the current students are going through.
My role is to help motivate every student, check in on their progress every day, be active in their job search and ensure the program runs smoothly. We’ve hired excellent instructors, mentors, and TAs—all of whom are professional developers—to teach and support the students.
This looks like a hopped up version of your Flexible Web Development Bootcamp. Other than hours per week committed, what’s the difference between these two?
Full Time Web Development Bootcamp is an online coding bootcamp with 1-on-1 mentorship and personalized attention. Every single day is structured and planned out for you, from 9am to 5pm. You move through the course with a cohort of 8 to 12 students that you pair with all the time. In short, you’re learning at a rigorous, accelerated pace in a small class with lots of expert attention.
Flexible Web Development Bootcamp, by comparison, is a self-paced intensive course. You can take it to the same destination, but the daily interactions are less structured—you can take that program at the same time as having a full-time job. Both programs have strong accountability built in but it’s up to the student to decide what pace fits their learning style.
Why wouldn’t I just attend an in-person bootcamp?
Tons of people don’t have a bootcamp in their home city. So there’s the benefit of not having to couch surf or drain your bank account into AirBnB, because all you need is the internet connection you’re reading interview post with.
More importantly, you also get far more personal, expert attention with Thinkful than you would at any other bootcamp, online or in-person. It’s also important to note that where this support comes from as well: every instructor, TA, and 1-on-1 mentor has professional experience as an engineer. These are not recent graduates from the Web Development Bootcamps, whereas many in-person bootcamps simply recruit their recent grads into teachers.
You mention getting students job-ready. What specifically do you do to make sure they get employed?
We don’t just get them job-ready, we guarantee them a job.
The skills they gain from the program will be more than enough to help them pass a programming test at an interview and be great junior developers. To get into the interviews, we help them out with Career Services.
Students first build their credibility by shipping code to GitHub every day. Meanwhile, during the course, they will have four mock interviews. These are conducted by professional engineers who actually interview candidates for their jobs; the students do not meet them beforehand. Each interview gets progressively harder as they hone a student’s ability to communicate technical and soft skills, as well as working with ‘culture fit’ questions to mimic the actual interview process.
By the time they graduate, students already have solid GitHub and LinkedIn profiles, and are well versed in attending local programming meetups. Maybe they’ve even attended a hackathon. They are assigned a Career Coach who meets with them twice a week over video chat to work on the job hunt, helping students navigate from applications and cover letters all the way to a final salary negotiation, even helping with company introductions when appropriate.
After students land their first job, I’ll be checking in on them once a month to make sure that we succeeded in our job: turning Thinkful students into great software developers on a high career growth trajectory.
Sounds like you guys really believe in your product. Tell us about the day-to-day. What’s the daily routine for Thinkful’s Full Time Web Development Bootcamp students?
You can read the hourly schedule on our website, but here’s a basic summary. Each morning starts off with a lecture from the lead instructors—veteran Thinkful mentors with at least 10 years of professional software development experience. You’ll learn about the topic of the day with the rest of your group and ask questions. Then, you’ll practice the new skill by building a project with a peer. Later on, you’ll get back together in a group review led by the instructor to check progress and address any common problems.
After lunch and another three hours of pair programming in the afternoon, you’ll end your day with a 1-on-1 mentor session to catch up, get unstuck, and plan for the next day. In the evening students will spend time reviewing the day’s concept, writing a daily reflection, and preparing for the next day. Outside of the 10am - 5pm schedule, we expect students to put 1-2 hours in the evening and 5-6 hours in the weekend.
Mentor sessions seem to be one of the most valuable things you offer. What takes place in the daily mentor sessions?
Well, not really, but close. Your mentor is the person who helps you process all of the information you learned that day. Of course, you can expect that they will walk you through any concepts that you don’t fully understand, and provide context for all of the lessons. Teaching is only part of what they do.
There’s a big emotional element, too. During the program, you get to build a relationship with someone who understands the struggle of becoming a software developer, and can truly guide you through the highs and lows of the process. Your mentor is also a great person to hold you accountable when you’re feeling stuck, and to give you insights on what life is like after you become a professional developer.
Some big in-person bootcamps are moving online. Why do you think Thinkful will be better for its students?
Online is where we thrive, we’ve designed every aspect of our curriculum and mentorship structure to work remotely. We’ve been at this for over three years, so we have more experience with the technical aspects, and more importantly, we know how to overcome the emotional challenges of motivating students who are not in the same physical room.
What kind of support do you offer? Other schools say they have chatrooms, mentor networks, and community support. Are yours actually any better than theirs?
Students have access to an unmatched amount of personal support. We have over 35 hours of office hours available every week, so Web Development students can jump into a video chat with our mentors and ask questions. They have access to our chat community on Slack, where they can get answers in real-time and network with our current students, alumni, mentors, and staff. Our mentors have an average of 10 years of professional software development experience, and our current students love them. The amount of support, especially from the office hours, is something that new students are always surprised by.
If you could talk directly to the reader, what are three pieces of advice you’d give them about their bootcamp search?
Do your own research! Don’t assume that what I’m saying (or what anyone says) is true. Part of being an engineer is being able to independently verify solutions.
Make sure that you ask specific questions about their statistics. How many applicants do they take? What does it take to be considered a graduate? How do they count job placements? Don’t take any numbers for granted, make sure that you can rely on them. Thinkful publishes a monthly Jobs Report and we’ve had it audited by a third-party accounting firm (PDF).
Find out how much support you’ll get. Students with 1-on-1 mentorship perform better than 98% of conventionally educated students. If you want reliable results, make sure you’re getting that expert attention. Support is huge for getting unstuck and maintaining your confidence.
Most important: Do your own research! Don’t assume that what I’m saying (or what anyone says) is true. Part of being an engineer is being able to independently verify solutions. Seek out their alumni directly, and not just the ones they recommend to you. Find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or elsewhere. Ask: “Is what they’re advertising true?”
We think that when you find Thinkful alumni, they’ll be just as enthusiastic as we are. Make sure you see that enthusiasm wherever you look.
Great, thank you so much for interviewing with us! If our readers are interested in Thinkful’s Full Time Web Development Bootcamp, what’s the next step?
We want to make sure you’re a good fit for the prep course before you enroll, so please take some time to read more about the program and schedule a call with our education advisor first. After addressing all of your questions or concerns, Noel can send you a link to enroll in the prep course. I’m also happy to answer any readers’ questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!