College or Code School? Q&A with a Redwood Code Academy alumnus

By: The SwitchUp Team
Last Updated: January 25, 2017

Often times when we are meeting with prospective students, we find they can be paralyzed with all of the options out there. Which code school should I go to? Should I just attend a community college class? Do I need a CS degree if I want a job? These are all valid questions and we interviewed an alumni of Redwood Code Academy to give you the perspective of someone who has been through the course!

Before attending Redwood, Taylor had dabbled in online courses and community college classes, and we think his perspectives might help others who have been considering a bootcamp but are unsure which path would be the best them.

Give us a little background on what you were doing for work and school before attending RCA?

I was working part time in a kitchen and going to community college part time studying Computer Information Systems. I was there for what seemed like forever learning what seemed like nothing. I decided to take a semester off to work and save up some money, but most importantly take a step back and really figure out how I wanted to move forward. It was during that semester off that I discovered Redwood Code Academy. I quit my job and jumped straight into the boot camp's full-stack web immersion course.

Tell us a bit more about your experience with the community college courses. From your perspective, what were the pros and cons of that learning experience?

The pros were that I was never overwhelmed by it. The content was at a slow and easy pace to the point where I never felt like I was behind. At the same time I'd say that was the con of my experience. I was there a long time and didn't learn very much. A lot of my courses were online so it was a game of memorizing for the quiz and then forgetting what I had learned. There weren't any projects or labs where I could get my hands dirty and build something.

And how about your experience with third party online classes you were exploring? What were the pros and cons of that experience for you?

I was diving into any online resource I could find and spent a lot of time on I did the HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Build Your Own Website path through them. To be honest, I felt like I learned more through codecademy's program than I did at community college. Their approach seemed a bit more modern and relevant to how developers are using these technologies today. The con would be that I never felt like they explained how all these pieces fit and work together. Outside of them giving me a task - I didn't know where to begin to build something on my own from scratch. I'd also hit walls and with those online classes and there is no one you can ask questions. I'd usually try and fix it a bit but end up giving up.

How did attending a boot camp like RCA compare to all of your previous learning experiences. What did you find to be the pros and cons of the bootcamp experience?

Attending RCA's course really helped me not only pick up new skills and technologies but helped me to understand how all of these smaller concepts I had picked up along the way fit together to make a bigger picture. Before the bootcamp, each language was this stand alone skill or idea and working with RCA really helped me understand how they all work together. Now I feel completely comfortable building a web application or website from scratch. I also enjoyed the collaborative learning environment and quick pace that we went at. While it was challenging at times I definitely learned a lot more.

What advice would you give someone on how to best prepare for the bootcamp experience?

I would definitely recommend going to codecademy and getting a strong grasp on HTML and CSS. It's good to have a decent understanding of how to write/read those before starting for sure. However, with what the guys at RCA taught us, you could come in with nothing and still gain a ton of knowledge--It just might take a bit longer to grasp all the concepts! I'm just thankful I had a good grasp on those basics coming in.

What is some advice you would give to someone who is on the fence with which path of education to pursue?

I would start with some online resources just to test if this is even something you like. I know this advice is given all the time, but learning to code can be intense! You need to hit a few walls and overcome a few hurdles to really see if you enjoy the experience. For me, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of being stuck and then figuring out a solution. If you find that you are the same way then, yeah, I'd for sure recommend that someone join a boot camp and go for it. Plus, if you are serious about tech, attending a bootcamp can be a great stepping stone into the industry.

For someone who is already sold on the idea that a bootcamp is the way to go - whats one piece of advice you'd give to that individual now that you've graduated.

If I could go back and redo my 12 weeks at RCA I would make it my sole focus. I would put in another 3-4 hours when I got home each night and for sure code on the weekends. The work was intense, just because we were learning so much, and I remember being completely exhausted at one point. But it was amazing, and I can't put enough emphasis on staying focused and pushing hard all the way through the experience. Bootcamps can be a great way to learn real skills, and you have to be ready to put in the time and effort to get the most out of it!

Learn more about Redwood Code Academy and how they can help launch your career as a software developer. Check out their Full-Stack Web Immersion course!

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