After a year of student success with their Full Time Web Development Bootcamp, Thinkful is doubling down. Students asked for a more in-depth program and employers are always looking for graduates with a stronger grasp on key programming concepts, bigger projects with crucial technologies like React and Node, and more impressive portfolios.
We sat down with Bhaumik Patel, who is the Head of Full Time Bootcamp to hear about the additional topics Thinkful students will learn and how all of that will help Thinkful Bootcamp graduates stand out in the job market.
Your Full Time Web Development Bootcamp has been around for a year. How has it gone so far?
Oh man, it’s been great. If you look strictly at the end results, students have gotten placed in excellent companies, including Intel, R/GA, and Boeing, among many others. We’ve been incredibly excited to watch students who had never coded professionally before ramp up in just over 4 months to become web developers, landing the exact types of jobs they talked about in their onboarding calls.
We’ve been teaching web development online for several years now but weren’t sure we could create the type of social experience that students expect from in-person programs. Being able to watch students step out of their shell and form genuine friendships with other students has been just as special as the outcomes. Ben Young, a graduate, spoke in detail about how supportive the community was for him in a recent blog post highlighting his experience.
So we noticed that you’ve made some big new changes to the bootcamp recently, including extended the length of the bootcamp. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah! Essentially, it came down to two reasons: depth and getting ahead of industry demand. As many coding bootcamps are starting to realize, 12 weeks just isn’t enough to make someone a professional developer. While our bootcamp was already 17 weeks long, we’re adding 3 weeks to our existing 4 month bootcamp to raise the bar even higher for our graduates.
We’re spending two of those weeks on the technical side, allowing students to spend more time on React, architectural design patterns, and SQL. We’ll also be able to cover important topics like such as web performance and dev ops to help our graduates hit the job running. We’ll also spend more time covering responsive design and CSS preprocessors like LESS & SASS. While you don’t need to be a professional designer, you do need to build an impressive portfolio to get you hired in the first place. Frankly, your users’ first impression of an app can make or break it, and design matters.
We’re also adding a new structured week of career prep before students kick off their job search with daily support from a career coach in the final weeks of the program. Before graduation, you’ll have polished resume, professional LinkedIn, compelling portfolio, and a personalized strategy for attacking the job search. We won’t stop until you negotiate your final job offer.
All of this sounds intense. How do students prepare for Thinkful’s bootcamp — what’s the application process? Can you give our readers some tips?
Thinkful’s mission is to be open to anyone who wants to learn. We don’t have an application process in which we pore over your résumé and then self-select for people who have been engineers, majored in computer science but are looking to add web development to their toolkit, or people with STEM backgrounds.
After you’re done with this content, you’ll have have a technical evaluation with a mentor to assess your comprehension. As an applicant, we’re not trying to squeeze you into a painful situation that sets you up to fail. If you can pass the tech evaluation and demonstrate that you can do the work, you’re most of the way there. Last up is a final evaluation, where you meet with our program manager to make the final decision. We try to create classes of students who will work well together, with positive attitudes and a growth mindset. Make sure you’re ready to learn and collaborate and you’ll get past this stage as well.
As an online school, do people spend time learning on their own? What’s different about Thinkful?
In short, as a Thinkful student, you have more support than in any other bootcamp program — online or offline. While brick-and-mortar schools need to pour tens of thousands of dollars into monthly rent at each of their locations, we put all of those resources into making sure that students are surrounded by expert support around the clock.
You wake up in the morning, do a little reading, and then join your workshop. Each workshop is run by a lead instructor — either Joe, Chris, or Tauhida — all of whom have decades of experience building software, leading teams, and teaching students. After learning the day’s lessons, you jump right into applying new concepts with practical coding.
That takes the form of pair programming. You team up with a different classmate each day, so you get used to working with a range of personalities. As you work, two TAs (who are expert mentors themselves) will be making rounds to different video rooms, so that you never have to wait if you and your pair get stuck on a given problem.
Every evening, you also meet 1-on-1 with your expert mentor. Whenever you’re stuck on a problem, need help planning out your project, or want to firm up your understanding of a programming concept, your mentor is there to work directly with you. Having that 1-on-1 attention is crucial. Nothing beats having someone who you get to know over the course of a 5 month program, who understands your thought processes and goals, working with you every day to help mold you into a professional web developer.
In addition to from the structured support time that is pre-planned into the Bootcamp, students can also attend Q&A sessions. Each week, mentors host over 40 hours worth of sessions, and as a student, you can join any of them. Many students jump into these when they need an answer right away, though you can join one even if you just want to hear how a different developer explains the way they solve a particular problem.
Last up is our Slack community. At any given time, dozens of mentors and hundreds students are online. Usually, it doesn’t take long to get your questions answered on there, whether you’re trying to set up a new development environment or just get some design feedback. That said, it’s just as valuable for you to build your network of experienced and budding developers.
Two reasons: learning experience and market demand.
Of course, we don’t have something against Ruby on Rails or other ways of building web apps. Some of our students have learned Rails during the Bootcamp’s Flex Week — a one-week period where you step out of the main stack to practice learning a new skill, as you doubtless will need to at several points in your career as a developer, given how fast the industry changes. Others have learned Python for data visualization and built mobile apps in Swift or React Native.
Sounds like job-readiness is baked into the curriculum from the outset. How else are Thinkful students prepared for the job search after they graduate?
Career Services are a huge part of student success, I’m glad you brought that up. You start prepping for the job search before you even graduate. As a student, As a student, you'll have 4 mock interviews through the course, performed by a Thinkful mentor to practice technical, soft skill, and “culture fit” questions. You’ll start working on your portfolio in the first half of the bootcamp after learning more about UI and responsive design. As you build capstone projects to add your portfolio, you’ll have thorough design and code reviews from Thinkful mentors to make sure your portfolio projects are impressive for recruiters and technical employees alike (you’ll spend significant time revamping your GitHub profile and READMEs).
Once you graduate, the job hunt ramps up in full. Thinkful’s Career Services team has connections with employers around the country, and is constantly seeking out hiring managers to introduce graduates to. You’ll get help writing your résumé, picking out job opportunities, and crafting each application.
The process is highly personalized, just like every aspect of a Thinkful education. As a student, you work 1-on-1 with your career coach. Together, as you apply for the best opportunities, your coach guides you through the process, giving you pointers on how to ace interviews. When you get your job offers, your career coach is also on hand to give you salary negotiation advice.
Speaking of job offers, you’re one of a few bootcamps to offer a job guarantee. Why?
The vast majority of students succeed. Our most recent Bootcamp Jobs Report shows 94% of graduates get hired as web developers and see an average salary increase of $18,091. That simplifies the decision-making for us.
Some students might love your program, but don’t want to quit their job. Does your Flexible Web Development Bootcamp make the same promise?
Yes! Flexible Web Development Bootcamp also features a job guarantee. While it’s structured very differently — students take the course part-time, so most students learn while holding a job — it does teach you everything you need to land your first job as a web developer. Benjy, our Education Advisor, can help you get started.
Since we’re in mid-March today, I want to remind everyone that our next cohort begins on May 8th and runs for 5 months. To be eligible for that cohort, you need to start the Prep Course no later than April 10th. I’d be happy to answer and questions, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a call with me.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us about Full Time Web Development Bootcamp, Bhaumik.