Over the last four years, we’ve seen 248 Bloc students go on to work professionally as software developers and designers. Along the way, we’ve learned what it takes to get students into the new career they seek, and we want to share the factors that contribute to the success of a Bloc student.
1. Persistence is required. Students who are unable or unwilling to sustain their effort on the often bumpy path to job readiness will not succeed. You have to fight the demons: bad time management, “maybe I can’t do this” second-guessing, a discouragingly sticky coding problem that makes you never want to open your laptop again, impostor syndrome, etc. The list of obstacles is long and successful students will rise to the challenge repeatedly. A student with a defeated attitude will not succeed in any program, period.
2. There is absolutely no substitute for a skilled engineer or designer to mentor you. The mentor-apprentice model is employed today in almost every software development team, whereby a senior developer or designer takes a junior person under their wing to show them the ropes, pattern their thinking and behavior appropriately, and guide them up the skills curve. In our experience, you cannot replace a mentor with a message board, and you cannot substitute a newly minted developer for a seasoned mentor with deep expertise derived from years of experience. Mentors can push you to your limits and help you navigate the struggles of programming. It takes an experienced mentor to adapt the learning journey to fit your needs. And your mentor is yours for life. Countless Bloc students report forming a strong bond with their mentors, and they stay in touch long after they’ve graduated. The rapport students build with their mentors is priceless.
3. An up-to-date, project-based curriculum goes a long way. Before Bloc offered career-focused programs with recruiting prep and career support for job-seeking students, we found that graduates of our more condensed programs were already having success in their job searches. When we surveyed our Course students — our shorter programs with no job prep or career services — we discovered impressive job success rates. We attribute that success to our approach to “learn by doing”; each Bloc student develops their craft by creating a portfolio of several fully-functional projects that demonstrate their skills in a way no certificate can. Based on these early success indicators (and our conviction that we can do far better to deliver outcomes), we launched our first outcomes-based programs last year: the Full Stack Web Developer Track and Designer Track, which are more comprehensive programs that provide recruiting prep and career support and have proven effective in providing outcomes for students.
4. Guided, rigorous career support is mandatory. Shifting focus to outcomes-based programs meant making our career support world-class. Career support is manifested in many ways in the coding bootcamp industry, but we’ve found that if it’s not built into the core of the program, the efficacy suffers. From our perspective, bolting on a week of resume preparation and cover letter drafting at the end of the program is a suspiciously limited amount of energy to devote to the challenge. At Bloc, career support is integrated into the curriculum early to ensure students are focused on their end goal from the beginning. We ask students to network proactively, complete mock interviews, and submit required programming reinforcement assessments early and often. Our feedback loop is tight: if a student struggles to master a skill, they don’t move forward until they understand it. If a student performs poorly on a mock interview, they’ll take time to answer their skills gap and then get another interview. If a student fails to apply to 10 jobs per week, we give a nudge to maintain persistence and focus, and help the student buoy their confidence. We’ve had four years to sniff out where and when students hit roadblocks — we know, with almost frightening accuracy, when a student may face a struggle and how to handle it.
5. Act in the student’s best interest without regard to how it affects a placement rate. We don’t play the numbers game just to show an alluring job placement rate. What if a student is offered a job that’s a bad fit for their skills and interests? What if a student prefers to seek out freelance work instead of a salaried position? What if a student wants to wait a few more months before applying to jobs? All of these scenarios create difficult complexity in calculating a placement rate, but are best for various Bloc students! This requires specialized attention for every student from Bloc’s Mentorship and Student Outcomes teams. We’ve learned the importance of assessing every student’s’ career goals even before they begin the program. Where does the student live? What is their current skill set? What is the student’s desired outcome? Do they have a family to support? We know students enroll to make a life change, and we help and advise them with their goals in mind, not a placement rate.
6. Physical presence is simply not a requirement. We believe that the individualization of an online program will provide better outcomes than an in-person bootcamp! Students can slow down in the areas they struggle in, speed up in the areas they grasp quickly, and focus their learning on their strengths and passions. Student persistence, experienced mentors, a project-based approach, and genuine student advocacy in career support are the most important factors for success, and none of those required an in-person learning format.
To date, 248 Bloc grads have successfully switched careers. Most are working in full-time salaried positions, some are working as freelancers, others launched new companies. We are bursting with pride at everything they’ve accomplished, and we’re eager to help the next 5,000 students do the same!
In the future, Bloc will publish an official Outcomes Report, which will isolate our career-focused programs for measurement. It’s too early for Bloc to publish these success metrics, as only a handful of the hundreds of students who enrolled in our career-focused programs last year have graduated and are within the post-graduate recruiting phase.
Genuine student advocacy is a core value at Bloc, and we hope you’ll come to find that our approach to outcomes is true to that value. If you have any questions or concerns about our approach, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.