When potential students consider LearningFuze, they often contact admissions with a range of questions about our curriculum, format, and instructors.
To help answer some common questions about life at a bootcamp, we sat down with Dan Paschal, Lead Instructor at LearningFuze. In the interview, Dan offer his advice on learning to code, how to choose a coding bootcamp, and how to get the most out of a program in such a short amount of time.
Dan came to LearningFuze with several years’ experience as a professional software engineer. A position as the Technical Director at GameDesk gave him the opportunity to mentor young adults in programming, which sparked his interested in teaching. Soon after, Dan came across a unique opportunity: to help build the curriculum for the new LearningFuze bootcamp.
As an instructor, Dan helps students learn to code by breaking big concepts into smaller pieces, using analogies to clarify concepts, and by first showing “why” before "how". Learn more about Dan’s approach to teaching and his advice for students:
Prior to joining LearningFuze, you got your start as a professional Software Engineer. What made you decide to start teaching?
Before LearningFuze, I was the Tech Director of a company focused on innovating in the educational space. During that time, I had the pleasure of teaching programming to young adults. We taught them how to concept, plan, develop, test, and market games in small “game companies” that then demonstrated their games to both their schoolmates or board of directors.
The opportunity to help people learn to mold their digital world to suit their needs was truly inspiring and encouraged me to continue down an educational path.
Why is LearningFuze a great fit for you? What do you like best about the environment at LearningFuze?
To be honest I had no idea what a coding bootcamp was before applying to LFZ. At first glance, it seemed impossible, perhaps even a scam. I still wasn’t sure if it could really work when I interviewed and found out more about the operations.
As it happened, much of what we originally thought we needed underwent a major overhaul. It was a huge challenge to breakdown 20+ years of my own learning into approachable segments, and determine what was truly necessary.
So I think it was a good fit in that it wasn’t fully formed yet, and I was able to grow as I helped get LearningFuze off the ground - how could I not love it?
Bootcamps are known for attracting students from all backgrounds. How can a student who does not have a tech background prepare for a bootcamp?
Diversity benefits every company, and development has been in dire need of people from different backgrounds.
For beginners - especially those from a non-tech background- it’s important to understand that programming is more about revamping your thought process than a particular skillset. Logic, communication, and perseverance are key to programming, and these are skills that everyone can develop.
What is your teaching style? How have you developed your approach as you work with more cohorts?
As an instructor, I find it helpful to break big concepts into smaller pieces, use plenty of analogies to bring a human-context to coding problems, and first show “why” before I show “how”. Programming has a rich history, and there are many things that experienced programmers take for granted, in terms of coding. There are also historical methods that are of no immediate use to fledgling programmers. So over time I’ve gotten a better feel for what to teach people when.
At LearningFuze, we constantly experiment with different approaches. This includes different ways of conveying ideas, and how to utilize students and instructors alike to best present information. We’ve found that our approach allows both students without any tech background and those with degrees to benefit greatly from the curriculum.
How do you work with students who are stuck on a particular programming concept?
Sometimes it is as simple asking someone else giving a different approach, an advantage we have thanks to our 5-1 student to staff ratio.
Other times, simply listening and asking questions back yields amazing results. One student might best understand Loops by talking about bars and “DS al Coda” in music, while another may benefit from a cooking related analogy.
If there is still a gap in understanding, we might afford the student the opportunity to take the class again when the next class starts. It doesn’t benefit anyone to have a student leave us before they are ready. So rather than ejecting someone to boost our stats, we work with them to tailor an approach that works for as many as possible.
What steps can a student take to get the most out of a bootcamp?
Here’s how I break it down to the students:
How can a student best prepare for the job market after a bootcamp?
The key is persistent learning, a polished presentation, and networking, networking, networking! Ask questions of guest speakers, go to as many meetups and networking events as you can before the end of the programming, and do anything you can to show your passion for programming!
The people I want to hire are those that go the extra mile, the ones I know in some way personally, and those who get giddy when they learn something new or build something that works as efficiently as possible.
Also, it is essential that students put in the time during the program and have polished, presentable projects demonstrating their technical skills. This does not just mean technical skills- soft skills are important as well.
Where are your students now? What kinds of jobs have your students secured after LearningFuze?
The list of companies is huge and growing every day! And even more interestingly, we have companies that have come back multiple times to employ our alumni. This includes large companies and small companies, startups and corporations.
Client-side jobs abound, but there are also a good number of people doing server-side tasks in addition to their front-end work. So students are prepared for both sides of the “full-stack” experience in a multitude of positions and even in languages or technologies they didn’t learn here, thanks to our focus on teaching programming fundamentals.
What other advice do you have for someone who is interested in joining a bootcamp?
Ask lots of questions. You are looking to alter your life fundamentally. Make sure you talk to the instructors and that you like their approach. Ask to listen to a lecture, or watch a video of them teaching.
Dedicate all your time to it. You only have that limited amount of time with full access and, if you are lucky like in the case of LFZ, extended access to the alumni and staff of the bootcamp.