School Spotlight: Interview with Helio Training's Danny Warren
Helio Training is a top tech bootcamp in Salt Lake City, Utah. We had a chance to sit down with instructor Danny Warren to discuss the program and also delve into his technical background. He provides advice for recent graduates as well as incoming students. Read on to learn more about his experiences.
You have over 9 years of Senior Software Engineering experience. What made you decide to start teaching?
I am a huge supporter of Software Engineering communities. I started presenting at user groups and conferences in 2013. Consequently, I was awarded a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in 2014 in recognition of my efforts in the community. In 2016, my 2nd child was born and I had to scale my efforts back. But 2 years later, I was looking for a way to contribute to the community again. I ran into Tyler Garlick, a friend and mentor from college, at a UtahJS Conference. He knew my desire to build a strong software engineering community and offered me a job. I love teaching at Helio Training because I get to see students join with no understanding of software development, and then have them leave with a solid foundation on which to start building their career. It's thrilling and rewarding!
What do you like best about the environment at Helio Training?
I attended Neumont College of Computer Science and loved their approach to project-based learning. Helio Training adopts that same concept and adds in industry-leading technologies to form a truly exciting and rigorous program. We don't just teach concepts and then kick students to the curb. No, we direct learning, provide mentoring, and require individuals to study out the topics and build their own skills to gain proficiency.
Bootcamps are known to attract students from all backgrounds. Which qualities should students possess to be successful in Software Engineering?
The required qualities for students to be successful software engineers is highly debatable. I firmly believe anyone who is willing to try new things - and fail - until they find the answer will be successful. Software engineering is less about being "smart" and more about being determined and dedicated to solving problem after problem. At the end of the day, that's really our job. We solve problems, and subsequently add tremendous value to the world.
How can a student who does not have a coding background prepare for the Helio bootcamp?
What is your teaching style? How have you developed your approach as you work with more cohorts?
More projects! In each class, I have progressively learned how to simplify lectures with more retention and get students into the code and solving problems. I also do not wait until after an entire class has completed to make adjustments to my teaching style. My students fill out weekly retrospectives in which they review their efforts and mine. I change things weekly as feedback is provided which helps me build students' confidence in me and the program. They know their voice is heard and respected.
How do you help students move forward when they are stuck on a problem?
Our process is simple. When a student is stuck, they ask classmates for help. If the class gets stuck, then they ask the class mentor, an Helio graduate, for help. If the class with the mentor are stuck then they approach the instructor who helps get things moving again. This process encourages exponential growth experience for the students because teaching is the best way to learn something. Sometimes, it might be frustrating to ask the instructor a seemingly simple question only to have them ask the class to answer the problem, but this process proves that you're not alone with your questions and you may be the one with the answer next time building your confidence. The most successful students rely on each other, not the instructor, because they learn how to learn and they learn how to find answers instead of having it handed to them.
What steps can a student take to get the most out of a bootcamp?
Practice, practice, practice! Whether you're a student of a bootcamp or college you absolutely must practice outside of class and outside of homework. Software engineering is a massive field that is constantly changing and growing. Students also need to be consistently committing to GitHub or other public code repositories. At the beginning those repositories will be small and very specific to learning objectives. As time progresses students progress into creating small project repositories and eventually into large project repositories. To become marketable students need to have a way to show they are dedicated to becoming a full-time software engineer and have the aptitude to do so.
How can a student best prepare for the job market after a coding bootcamp?
Maintaining an active GitHub account is one of the best ways to visibly prove aptitude and dedication to software engineering. Despite it being an applicant's job market today, bootcamp and college graduates need to prepare for a lot of rejection before finding their first job. Every extra project you create and showcase on GitHub will increase your chances to receive your first job offer.
Where are your students now? What kinds of jobs have your students secured after Helio Training?
I have had a wide variety of students with different ambitions and goals in my after-hours course. One graduate is now a freelance developer, another took my course as a level up and got a promotion at work. I had a student join as an accountant and got a job where she doubled her income. Impressively one student gained employment as a software engineer about half-way through my last course. It has been so exciting and rewarding to see each student graduate and be as successful as they want to be.
What are the most important things a student should consider when comparing bootcamps?
It's not enough to compare cost and time to graduation. Potential students need to understand what style of learning they will go through. The best way to do that is talk to graduates of any program they are interested in. When investigating any course, ask to speak to a current student and/or alumni. Keep in mind that after graduation there will won't be someone to lecture new topics to you, so you'll need a bootcamp which teaches you how to learn. You don't want a program that simply tells you what to do each step of the way. I chose to teach at Helio Training because of the project-based learning approach in and out of class. They don't just talk about it, but they live it.
What other advice do you have for someone who is interested in joining a bootcamp?
I believe software engineering is the most exciting and versatile career available today. As a software engineer, you can work for cool cutting-edge startups, solid growth based companies, or massive conglomerates. You can work for charities, biomedical, government, philanthropy, finance, education, or any other field in the world. Everyone needs software and we get to play a major role in solving some of the world's most complex issues. So have fun and enjoy the process of learning!