TL/DR: I graduated from the Viking Code School’s July 2016 immersive program, and it is both as challenging and rewarding as advertised.
I studied political science in college and worked in politics and campaigns for about 5 years before starting at VCS.... Read More
After hearing about people in similar situations enrolling in coding bootcamps, I started doing some research. Like you’re doing right now, I read tons of reviews of different programs on sites like this one, trying to figure out the best match for me. So here are some answers to some of the questions you, like me, might have:
YES, students really do get legit engineering jobs after the program. I might as well address this at the beginning, since it was the most important thing for me as well. I received my first offer about 6 weeks after the program ended, and a second offer shortly after that (which I accepted) as a Full-Stack Engineer at a biotech start-up in Cambridge, MA. When I accepted my offer, over half of my cohort of 13 students had already accepted offers and the others were right on my heels as well. This is real, folks.
YES, it’s a ton of work. Compared with other bootcamps, VCS has both more weeks and more hours per week. 70 and 80 hour weeks were routine, so you need to prepare yourself to let the program pretty much take over your life.
Living on the East Coast, class started at 11 AM, with an hour or so of review and QA from the last night’s reading. We would then spend 3 hours with a partner (different classmate each day) on a project, usually incorporating some of the concepts we had read about the night before. During this time, you could ask for help from one of the TAs if you got stuck on something. After lunch from 3 - 4PM, we would come back together as a class and do code review of what people had built in the first session, and then usually spend 10-20 minutes solving an algorithm and explaining our answers. That was followed by another 3 - 3.5 hour session with the same partner, either continuing the morning’s project, starting a new one, or continuing an ongoing project that might span a few days. The day wrapped up with another session of code review (this was usually done in smaller groups, not the whole class) and then an hour or two of reading a night. So yeah, it’s no joke.
Of course, the benefit of those longer hours and increased number of weeks is that VCS is able to provide a wider and deeper curriculum than any other bootcamp I researched. This was one of the main factors in why I chose this program over others. It’s been said in a number of other reviews, but I learned more than I could even imagine. And while it could be exhausting at times, it also never stopped being energizing, as it’s easy to get excited when you’re literally learning dozens of new things every single day.
NO, it’s not for everyone. Having just talked about the workload, clearly not everyone is ready to commit to 70 or 80 hours a week of work, and that is certainly reasonable. And furthermore, VCS has higher standards for its applicants and includes a tougher interview process than any of the other bootcamps I was considering. But what this means for you, as a VCS student, is that your classmates end up being just as committed to working hard and learning as you are. I was constantly impressed by the ability and dedication of my fellow students, and with this bootcamp (like so many others) based largely on partner and group work, it’s critical that you’re able to trust, and learn from, other members of your cohort.
YES, you will have support along the way. Apart from not having to dig into your bank account until you have a paycheck again, the other benefit of VCS’s deferred payment model is that they’re committed to and invested in your success. But the team that runs the program are clearly not just doing this to make a buck. It was evident from the first conversation I had with Erik (the founder and main instructor) that he is passionate about educating people to succeed in engineering roles on day one. He and the TAs are almost always available to talk about the course material, your bigger picture goals, and the job search process.
NO, you don’t have to commute. VCS is one of the only full-time immersive bootcamps done entirely remotely. In my experience, this was almost entirely a positive thing. When you’re spending 70 or 80 hours a week in class, being able to save 5 or 10 hours a week of commuting to and from your bootcamp is incredibly important. It can potentially be the difference between occasionally being able to see your friends and family or not.
The instruction and partner work, all done through Google Hangouts, was really smooth and I ended up really getting to know my classmates and building good relationships. Plus, you get to meet students from across the country and world (and potentially gaining a couch to crash on if you’re ever in their neck of the woods).
YES, you will be prepared for the job search and the interview process. Pretty much from day one, you’ll be doing things with an eye toward the job search and interview process. The daily algorithms I mentioned earlier are meant to mimic the types of whiteboarding questions you might see in an interview, and were essential for learning how to tackle those quickly. During the first half of the program, and even before you start, there’s a focus on really figuring out what type of company and role you would want, what salary range you’re looking for, where you would move, and all types of other questions to really get your job search honed in on only roles you would want. And starting in the second half of the program, you start networking and sending out applications, and as was the case with most students, getting some interviews.
VCS has a good set of materials to help you prepare for the job search, both on the technical side and preparing for behavioral questions. But the best thing is their focus on networking and getting in through the side door. Yes, you will be applying to dozens of jobs a week at times, but VCS will make sure lots of your time and energy are spent reaching out to engineers at companies you like, attending meet-ups, and going to hackathons. It’s simply a reality that recruiters are getting dozens of resumes every day, and having some sort of connection can at least give you a chance to interview. And then it’s all up to you.
NO, I can’t make this decision for you. But I can’t recommend Viking Code School highly enough. It’s the best career decision I’ve ever made.