I'm writing this review about one week into my first full-time job ever as a mid-level SWE, where I've been learning something new basically every hour but without feeling overwhelmed or lost. I am comfortable asking questions to my boss and senior software... Read More
Why + how Codesmith is able to accomplish its immersive program outcomes:
Codesmith prioritizes cultural fit and learning potential over technical knowledge. I know this because as someone who stayed on as an engineering fellow, I conducted technical interviews for applicants. Here are some important things to understand about the interview process:
When Codesmith rejects you, it is not because you aren't good enough to do the program. Codesmith's curriculum is extremely rigorous and fast-paced, and we don't want residents regretting their decision to spend $18k on a program where they feel completely overwhelmed. In asking applicants to re-interview, we are asking you them reinforce your knowledge and fully prepare themselves for the program, as mentioned in the first point.
What I cared about most in interviews was determining if the person would flourish in the program and would contribute to the supportive + collaborative community that Codesmith works hard to maintain, as opposed to their technical ability. This is also true when interviewing for SWE positions at actual companies (at least ones that would be pleasant to work at): they care more about hiring a competent engineer with good cultural fit and a baseline level of knowledge over hiring a genius that can't work on a team or doesn't care about the work outside of writing code, and this is reflected in Codesmith's interview process.
Codesmith spends time teaching computer science fundamentals, which means data structures, algorithms, and time complexity. In order to progress as an engineer, you need a foundation to stand on and to understand what your code is doing when it is executed instead of just memorizing syntax that can become outdated on a whim. If the bootcamp you are considering does not touch on foundational CS concepts and seems to only be concerned with teaching you some specific "modern" technologies, it is a BIG red flag for the quality of education.
Expanding on the previous point, Codesmith ultimately wants you to become an autonomous, opinionated engineer rather than an expert in some specific tech stack. Especially in web development, frameworks, libraries, and technologies go in and out of style on yearly basis and anything you learn at a bootcamp may be obsolete 2-5 years from now. What really matters is creating a solid foundation in computer science, code design patterns, and system design concepts that allow you to jump off a cliff into learning any new technology with a really sturdy parachute. This is why Codesmith's curriculum places a lot of emphasis on the WHY of what you are doing: why would you use React over Angular or Vue? How does Node.js handle asynchronous JS and why does that make it a good choice for applications that needs non-blocking event processing? These under-the-hood concepts and informed opinions are what makes Codesmith grads stand out and why they can aim for mid-level positions.
The hiring program is almost worth the tuition by itself (I'll get to what really makes the tuition worth it next), as my new salary would easily cover it. The CIRR outcomes really speak for themselves so I won't talk about it too much, but the difference in comfort and confidence I felt when interviewing for junior positions right after college and when interviewing for mid and senior-level positions after finishing Codesmith was hundreds of miles apart. Codesmith gives you a very detailed and specific guide for handling every aspect of the SWE interview, as well as lasting career support post-graduation.
Everything I've listed so far in terms of academic material is stuff that could be found online with some creative Googling (which Codesmith also emphasizes as an important skill). But if I could do this kind of studying on my own, I wouldn't have spent a year unemployed before doing the program. What I really paid for was the incredible community created by the staff and the careful interview process that chooses good engineers that are also good people. In the pressure cooker that is a three-month immersive program, you will need an emotional support system to lift you up when you're doubting your abilities and I definitely found that in my cohortmates and the instructors. When I became a fellow and stayed on another three months to teach, I saw three more cohorts repeat the process of leaning on each other for support and guidance, and shedding tears at final shoutouts when the process ended. The supportive community continues even after the cohort is over as you go into the job search, as all the alums I contacted for advice were friendly and encouraging.
Ultimately, even though I was initially skeptical of Codesmith and it's weirdly high outcomes, I now understand how it is able to accomplish them after having done the program myself. The remote setting did not diminish the value of the experience in any way. If Codesmith doesn't seem like the right fit for you, I would still strongly advise that any bootcamp you pick meets the criteria described above.