A Day in the Life of a Coding Bootcamp Student

Original Article

We’re continually amazed by our students and their determination to learn how to code while juggling life. Liz is currently a Software Developer TrackBloc student balancing kids, work, and the program (visit her site here). We asked her to tell us about her typical day as a Bloc student for us to share with aspiring developers:


My life is basically the art of switching between various different hats. As well as being a Bloc student on the Software Engineering Track, I’m also a freelance web designer/developer. I currently work mostly with startup companies and clients who are establishing their web presence for the first time. This gives me a fun range of client requests, ranging from “can you create a more SEO-friendly website than I currently have?” to “can you tell the Google how to find my site?” (not kidding, wish I was). On top of that, I’m also a mom to a preteen daughter and a toddler.

A Normal Day

My day usually starts with me sleepily stumbling over to my laptop around 6am so I can do some uninterrupted work on my Bloc curriculum before my small humans (or clients) wake up. Bloc breaks things down into bite-sized checkpoints, so I can usually get enough done in an hour or two to feel like I’ve made a respectable amount of progress for the day. Working early also has the added benefit for the days I get stuck (which are numerous) because, after I have bashed my head against a particular problem for long enough, I can shoot my mentor a message on Bloc’s Slack channel and she’ll get back to me sometime later in the day.

The rest of my morning is a whirlwind of french braiding, shoe finding, carpools, and attempting to dress a toddler. For those of you who haven’t tried it, this is like trying to get an octopus in one of those old-fashioned mesh grocery bags without any of the tentacles sticking out. After the medium human is at school/summer camp, the little critter and I begin our daily routine of vacuuming, laundry, and other Cinderella impressions (literally for her, figuratively for me).

Throughout the day my spare minutes, nap times, and the tiny creature’s coveted hour of “daily screen time” are spent on client work. About eighty percent of this is spent getting to design and code websites, which is definitely my favorite task. The remaining twenty percent is various social media, content creation, and miscellaneous tasks that I’m not as fond of but can’t realistically avoid.

Around 4pm I switch back into chauffeur mode for pickup, snack time, and homework help. The little one plays with my office supplies (because baby toys are apparently quite boring) while I quiz my pre-teen on algebra, photosynthesis, and facts about the ancient Mayans only known by moms of school children and Jeopardy addicts. This usually lasts until dinner, but on some light homework days, the girls amuse each other while I get some “bonus work time” to spend on Bloc stuff or client work, whichever is most pressing.

Once my husband gets home from work I put on my (fortunately metaphorical) chef’s hat and it’s off to the races for the dinner, bathtime, bedtime routine. After the small humans are asleep, we do dueling laptops in bed while he clears out his inbox and I get organized for the next day, integrating my mentor’s feedback into my Bloc coursework, sending my clients status emails, or whatever other work didn’t get done during the day.

What Next?

After I complete my program with Bloc I sincerely hope life will involve a fraction less of a split focus. I am only two-thirds of the way through my program, but I am looking forward to the part of the curriculum that will prepare me to network in the career field and secure more clients. This way I can keep the “parent” hat and the “freelancer” hat, but leave the “student” hat on the shelf for a bit.

It’s definitely been a commitment (both of time and sheer willpower) to do a program on top of my usual mix of obligations. However, having an organized curriculum that goes over the broad landscape of web development, in addition to a mentor I can harass with deep dive questions about my current coding conundrum has been invaluable to me, and far more effective than my previous strategy of blind stumbling and over-reliance on Stack Overflow.

Advice to Future Blocsters

Don’t be shy with your mentor. Some of my biggest learning moments have come when I asked my mentor random coding questions, sometimes ones only tangentially related to the course material.

Keep in mind the idea that best practices evolve. Things change fast. Things on the internet change ridiculously fast. A few times I got hung up because one website suggested one way of doing something, another blog said to do it a different way, and the Bloc coursework had a third method. Seek out a real person to explain the evolution of something (e.g. how to structure a certain JavaScript function, how to configure your environment variables in Rails, etc.). Usually, it’s a logical story that explains how all three things were, at some point in time, the “right” way to do things, what the “current” best way is, and why.

Most coders are awesomely helpful. Over my time as a developer, I have had countless conversations with “internet stranger-friends” on Stack Overflow and other help websites. Several times complete strangers have taken literally hours on chat to work me through an issue I was having, simply because my problem had intrigued them and they wanted to see it get solved. No compensation, no reason, just ’cause. Usually, when you thank them, they say the same thing about how someone helped them when they were starting and how happy they are to pay it forward.

Have fun with it. If you think of things like school, it will end up just as boring as you make it. Conversely, if you think of projects that interest you (even if they’re not exactly the ones on the syllabus) and make it relevant to you, you will get so much more out of it and have a blast in the meantime.

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When you first say: “I’m a Developer”

From Current Bloc Student, Beth Cummings

Original Article

Here at Bloc, we love celebrating our student’s successes. This week’s featured student is Beth Cummings. She’s currently finishing her capstone for the Part-Time Web Developer Track using a real client that she sought out herself. Before Bloc, she owned and designed for a screen printing company distributing goods to boutiques throughout the country. In addition to being a Bloc student, she’s a mom to an adorable five-year-old and loves to cook! Check out where she’s at currently with the program as she wraps up her time at Bloc.

 
Beth with her son, Frankie.

I was at a party a few weeks ago and something really amazing happened. I got everyone’s least favorite opening question, “What do you do for a living?” and without thinking, I said, “I am a web developer”. I didn’t caveat it with “want to be” or tell them I was in school or give some long winded answer about changing careers. I simply told them what I was, I’m a web developer. And it was in that moment that I believed it for the first time.

I started my first week at Bloc with an equal measure of hope and fear. It’s a big, crazy unknown and I had the same three questions as everyone else does. “Am I smart enough?” “Will it be too hard?” “Will Bloc accept my carefully cultivated selection of cat gifs in lieu of payment?” (FYI: No, they won’t.) I quickly came to realize the best part of learning to be a developer is that no matter what your problem is, someone else has had it already. Google, StackOverflow, and Chrome Dev Tools became my new best friends. And like human best friends, I cry on them and tell them all my problems and they give me advice (unlike human best friends that don’t take my side and tell me that I’m too good for Ruby anyway and it’s her loss and feed me cookies). Of all the things I’ve learned from Bloc the most important is to be a better problem solver. How can I break down the problem? What can I do to isolate it? Test it? It is an absolute necessity to be able to critically evaluate the problem, though like most problems eating cookies really does help.

Take a penny, leave a penny. That’s how I feel about Slack. Bloc uses Slack to connect students, mentors, and alumni to help others as they’re progressing through the program. Since everyone starts at different times, there’s always someone ahead of you in the program and someone behind you. There is a beautiful symmetry in that. Both someone to ask for help when a checkpoint is tricky (I’m looking at you Bloc Chat!) and someone to offer a hand to. That is our responsibility as a community. It’s also a win win, it has also given me leagues of practice in parsing and debugging code that isn’t mine, an invaluable skill to have.

I was so excited to start my first projects and to make them my own, it made me realize really early on how passionate I am about crafting beautiful front ends. I’ve always been the teacher’s pet and am certainly no different as an adult. I began digging into more front end principles like accessible design, responsiveness and playing with CSS preprocessors like Sass and LESS that aren’t covered in the curriculum. One of the many things I love about Bloc and my mentor, Caila Blanton, is the freedom and encouragement to explore interests that will only further my professional development and make me a more well-rounded developer.

My capstone has been an amazing learning experience. It’s the first time the training wheels really come off and it’s all you, steering into a parked car (true story, I definitely did that as a kid). With all the freedom in the world, I settled on the challenge of taking on a real client for the first time. A local boutique owner here in Chicago I’ve known for ages was in desperate need of a new site. The old one was outdated, bland and not nearly graphic enough to show off the 100+ artists that she carries.

Beth’s capstone project/first client project!

We worked together to design a site that served her needs, not just in a final product but in terms of maintainability. A real client comes with the added pressure of needing to get it right. This isn’t hypothetical anymore, a real person, a real business is now relying on you. I wanted to push myself so I decided on building a custom CMS with Ruby on Rails, Postgres, and AWS S3. Starting out I had more questions than answers, which was a great sign as far as I was concerned, that I would learn a lot. This was, after all, a chance to try as many new things as I could. The finished project is beyond my expectations. The site is now clean, modern and easy to use and navigate. And most importantly my client couldn’t be happier!

“Mommy, look! I am coding just like you!” my son sits on the floor next to me with a laptop he made out of cardboard, merrily tapping on the drawn on keys. I’m teaching him by example that intellectual curiosity never ends. And that no, I will not buy you a real laptop, you are five years old. There is a certainty we instill in children from such an early age that they can be anything they want to be. If you ask my son he is a coder, an engineer and a paleontologist (and sometimes a tiger). At some point, that certainty in who and what we are goes away and the nagging feeling of imposter syndrome becomes real. But when I look back at all progress I’ve made since starting Bloc, the skills I’ve developed and the fully fleshed out projects I’ve created I know in that moment who and what I am. I’m a web developer and I’m ready for the next challenge.

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Defer Up To 95% Of Your Tuition With Bloc’s New Interest Only Loan

Here at Bloc, one of our core values is genuine student advocacy. That is why today, we are very excited to announce that, with our financing partner Skills Fund, we are launching new financing options that will significantly increase the number of students who can financially access Bloc’s Career Track programs to improve their lives. Bloc is the only part-time, online bootcamp to offer interest only financing options that allows students to defer between 83-95% of their tuition cost while they are in the program. We strongly believe that this new option breaks down the substantial financial barrier that has prevented so many qualified students from enrolling in a bootcamp program until now.

These new Interest Only Loans allow students to pay a small fraction of tuition while in the program and for two months after program completion. With this loan, you can pay an in-program payment as low as:

  • $152 per month for the Software Developer Track
  • $69 per month for the Part-Time Web Developer Track, and
  • $76 per month  for the Designer Track

Two months after program completion, interest plus principal payments will be paid on a monthly basis. Students will have a choice of either 3- or 5-year term length options with an 8.99% interest rate or 10.99% interest rate, respectively. These new financing options are available, in addition to our current loan options, starting today, Thursday, July 20, 2017.

Although our current financing plans help many people enroll in Bloc, we’re constantly looking to offer more options to aspiring students. Through market research, we found financing is still a large barrier to entry for many aspiring developers and designers who possess the necessary potential. As our students are generally career changers, flexibility and loan options are extremely important.

“We are excited to expand the advantageous financing options available for our career-focused programs, and make transformational educational opportunities at Bloc available to even more students. Now almost anyone willing to commit to the challenge of acquiring new skills can improve their lives with a promising new career and greater earning power.” – CEO, Clint Schmidt

In addition to no principal due during the program, students who don’t qualify for the Interest Only Loan or our current offering (an Immediate Repayment Loan) will be eligible for an Access Loan. Bloc believes in our programs, students, and their ability to produce outcomes wholeheartedly, and we’re excited to make this option available through Skills Fund. These loans are structured to allow for even more people to afford the program. Students can choose whether they want to apply for an Access Loan with an Interest Only structure or an Immediate Repayment structure. If you were previously denied a Skills Fund loan (standard or Interest Only) and are interested in learning more about Access Loans, contact your Student Advisor.

We’re excited about the opportunity to work closely with Skills Fund to open more doors to more students and chip away at the barrier of cost to attend a bootcamp. These loan options are available starting today, Thursday, July 20, 2017. To learn more about these new payment options or Bloc’s programs, schedule a call with your Student Advisor.

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It’s Complicated: Estimating Software Engineering Salary

Estimating Salary

Our programs are structured for one outcome: to help you get a challenging new job that you love! We employ mastery learning to ensure you understand concepts before moving on to the next topic. This is critical for success in getting a job after program completion. We believe in our program so much that we have a tuition reimbursement guarantee for students who meet our program standards. If you’ve already had a call with one of our Student Advisors, you’ve probably asked about salary expectations. This is a frequent question we get and though it would be easier to give just one number, the truth is that salary estimates vary due to several changing variables. In this article, we’ll cover the range of salaries based on location for Software Engineers, highlight the complexity in estimating salary on a per student basis, and why you should care.

Due to bootcamps being unregulated, numbers around salaries and expectations can be skewed and miscommunicated. As an online bootcamp that caters to people from around the world, we cannot guarantee a particular title or location. We are here to help you get the job you love through mock interviews, mentorship, and world-class career support while practicing genuine student advocacy. We practice this throughout Bloc, but when it comes to salary expectations being genuine advocates for students specifically means being transparent about the state of industry standards and what students should use to set their expectations.

Here are a few factors that go into estimating salary when looking to get a job in software engineering:

Job location

It is likely that there are different salary estimates for cities in the same state. For example, someone in San Diego will get paid differently than someone in San Francisco. Over 100 cities are covered under our tuition guarantee umbrella, which makes pinpointing salary for each one difficult. Most programs, including Bloc, will highlight median salary on a national level since many online bootcamps are national (in our case, worldwide). A great resource to look at when researching salaries based on specific locations is salary.com. Below is a specific example of the wide range of salaries by state for those who are looking to be Software Developers of Applications.  This gets more complex as you narrow down to a city level:

Software Developer, Applications Annual Median Salary

State Annual Median Salary
Alabama $90,430
Alaska $100,920
Arizona $90,330
Arkansas $83,410
California $118,220
Colorado $103,910
Connecticut $97,030
Delaware $99,460
DC $112,830
Florida $85,110
Georgia $95,590
Hawaii $79,940
Idaho $79,360
Illinois $96,300
Indiana $78,220
Iowa $84,120
Kansas $85,540
Kentucky $77,520
Louisiana $73,370
Maine $82,840
Maryland $99,390
Massachusetts $106,970
Michigan $82,770
Minnesota $90,620
Mississippi $84,380
Missouri $94,610
Montana $73,550
Nebraska $86,680
Nevada $91,860
New Hampshire $99,100
New Jersey $95,810
New Mexico $80,900
New York $106,770
North Carolina $95,100
North Dakota $73,710
Ohio $89,020
Oklahoma $81,230
Oregon $97,380
Pennsylvania $92,260
Puerto Rico $53,750
Rhode Island $92,790
South Carolina $81,140
South Dakota $75,560
Tennessee $82,740
Texas $104,500
Utah $93,450
Vermont $91,720
Virginia $106,890
Washington $126,140
West Virginia $84,870
Wisconsin $81,160
Wyoming $64,200

(source: bls.gov)

Job level

Median salaries listed by the BLS cover the gamut of software engineers. That means people with the same job title could have a different level of experience. Someone who’s been working in software for 2+ years is going to be paid differently than someone who has 0 years of experience.   

Job title

If you complete our Software Developer Track program, you’ll be able to apply for a wide range of jobs with different job titles. Given the apprenticeship and depth of our program, students who excel in our Software Developer Track program may be able to work in a position higher than junior level depending on the company and requirements of the job. You’ll be paid less for a junior level position than a higher level position, so apply to both as you’re job searching as even this slight change in title can affect your potential salary.

Company

Working at Google is different than working for a startup. The size of company will make a difference in your compensation package. Glassdoor is a great resource when researching specific companies. If you have a dream company that you want to work for, this is where you would go to get an estimated salary, potential stock options, and benefits. Note that for smaller companies or startups, there may not be salary or benefits data for a specific position you’re interested in applying for. For example, the salary estimates for a Jr. Software Engineer for Yelp in San Francisco is $95,610, whereas a smaller company, like ZapLabs has a Jr. Software Engineer position with an average salary between $74,000 and $83,000.  

Due to the difficulty of estimating this number, our tuition reimbursement guarantee promises a minimum offer of $60,000 for a role relating to software development. We believe this is possible with the help of our Career Services team that has worked hard to help Bloc students get jobs all over the United States. They are here to help you determine the quality of the offers you receive and make sure that you are negotiating effectively for the highest salary possible.

Interested in learning more about our Software Developer Track? Attend one of our daily information sessions!

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Why You Should Enroll in a Coding Bootcamp

whyenroll

Here at Bloc, we rely heavily on data and feedback to make our programs better and help you get the job you want. We’re constantly looking to hiring managers, industry professionals, and industry news to make sure our programs are aligned with expectations in the field. It seems like 2016 was the year coding bootcamps really took off, but are they still worth the price tag? Why should anyone enroll in a coding bootcamp?

Reason 1: Automation in the workplace

According to Forbes, the introduction of machines, AI, and new technology are threatening many jobs like telemarketers, appraisers, tax preparers, and cashiers. There is an increasing need for STEM professionals as well as those in complex roles like social work or mental health services. STEM professionals offer a level of logic and problem solving abilities past that of what a machine is capable.

On NPR’s “Will Your Job be Done by a Machine?”, they show that statistically, there’s only a 12.8% chance a software developer role will be automated due to the skill and logic it takes to do well in this field. It is likely that some software development tasks can be automated, but the need is still there for a human.

Reason 2: Employers hire bootcamp graduates

Many people think that coding bootcamps don’t offer an education good enough to rival that of an accredited education. In a recent Indeed study, they found that “72% of employers think bootcamp grads are ‘just as prepared’ to be high performers as degree holders”. Given Bloc’s program is shorter in length, allows you to go part-time, and is a fraction of the cost of a degree, it’s a no brainer for those looking to keep in budget or wanting to change their career.

In addition, surveyors found that “51% of surveyed companies said that hiring bootcamp grads is a good way to help job seekers from minority groups find work in the technology sector.” This is important to Bloc and hiring managers, as we want to create a diverse group of people working in tech. Bloc also offers diversity scholarships to enable more people of minority groups to take our programs.

Reason 3: Knowing how to code sets you apart

The job market is saturated with people who may have the same background as you and 4-year education.  Diversifying your skillset makes you stand out to potential employers.  It’s beneficial to learn code even if your dream title isn’t developer.  For those who are in marketing, are project managers, or are technical writers, development can be an unique skill that sets you apart from competition and allows you to do your job more effectively.

Still unsure if a bootcamp is right for you?

Sign up to watch one of our online information sessions and talk with one of our Student Advisors. We want to be sure Bloc is a good fit for you and your career goals!

 

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Are We All We’re Cracked Up To Be?

06_29_17-reviews

The process of discerning an online bootcamp program is a lot like the process of online dating. We know that may sound crazy, but hear us out! Just like online dating, when looking at bootcamps, you want to take the time to get to know a program before investing the time and effort.  The outcome? Much like dating, a lifetime of happiness, of course!  You want to get to know your coding bootcamp to make sure they have the best intentions and are the best fit for you.  Here at Bloc, our dating profile looks great, but are we all we’re cracked up to be?  We can talk to you all day about our curriculum, how our mentors set us apart, and our dedication to our students, but isn’t it so much more validating to hear from those who’ve been in a relationship with us?

The proof is in the pudding.

Bloc has been named one of the top coding bootcamps of 2017 by SwitchUp, Skilledup, Techendo, and has been featured in Wired, Business Insider, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Gizmodo. The list goes on.

But what really matters is what our alumni have to say about the program. This post gathers alumni reviews from third-party sites, like:

We take reviews of our programs very seriously and make updates based on current and past students to constantly evolve our curriculum. Below you’ll find excerpts from over a dozen Bloc reviews from previous stay-at-home moms to hedge fund partners that will answer common questions with direct links to the full reviews from real students that paint an accurate picture of the challenges and joys of Bloc.  

What do you like about Bloc’s Programs?

“Bloc’s guided self-paced curriculum in conjunction with 1:1 mentor meetings made grasping the complex programming topics involved in the curriculum not only manageable but also fun. My mentor, Alex, has been fantastic throughout my entire time with Bloc; always responding to inquiries quickly and providing support and expertise whenever I need it. Because of the great program and expertise Bloc and their mentors provide, I’ve gone from being intimidated by programming to confident in my abilities and I’ve even landed a more specialized job as an internal product developer for a major tech company.” –Julian, 5 stars on SwitchUp

“In just seven months, I have been able to begin building a solid portfolio of design and front-end development work. In this time, I’ve also learned how to use approximately a dozen design tools and received extensive one-on-one direction from my mentor, who has been there to help me every step of the way. Whenever I’ve felt stuck on or needed feedback on an assignment, I’ve been able to connect with fellow students and receive feedback within hours, if not minutes. The cost-coupled with the hands-on mentorship you receive and the tools that you are exposed to-has been absolutely worth it for me. ” –Tim, 5 stars on Course Report

How does the part-time option and flexibility help you?

“I am a 40-year-old mom so leaving to NYC or else where for 6 months was not my jam. Bloc offered a rigorous online program with the one-on-one with weekly mentoring. You can start and stop your program (with some limits) which is great for when my kiddo got sick, or my family needed me to work at our studio… basic life stuff.” –Beth, 5 stars on SwitchUp

“I am so glad that I decided to start this program with Bloc.  This has been a great fit for me based upon my stage in life.  I am married with two young daughters, so this program has allowed me to still pursue a dream of learning software development and eventually switching careers into the tech industry, while still maintaining my current job since I am the main breadwinner/insurance provider/etc.” –Carissa, 5 stars on Course Report

“First I have to start that I have a full-time job in tech already and I’m not willing to let it go. A Part-time option from Bloc.io was the perfect predefined solution for me and will be for those who have bills to pay and a family to support.” –Yury, 5 stars on SwitchUp

What do you think of Bloc’s curriculum?

“So far I am very happy with the Bloc Curriculum.  They split up the program into Modules. Throughout each module there are quizzes to test your knowledge, and at the end of each module you have to pass an assessment (which is like a mock interview via google video chat) to make sure you have a good enough understanding of the content to move onto the next module.” –Erin, 5 stars on Course Report

“The curriculum is clear, concise, and has always left me with feeling comfortable with what I have learned. I recently just completed my first “bigger” project, Bloc-Jams, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. I learned more than I could imagine throughout these past 3 weeks, and my mentor always replied within hours to help whenever I had an issue.” –Jeremy, 5 stars on SwitchUp

What did you think of Bloc’s mentor-lead approach vs. classroom learning?

“My mentor has been an amazing support system, and a source of real-world knowledge. My meetings with him always provide nuggets of wisdom and extra information that is invaluable to my learning process at that time and for the future. I was nervous about doing an online bootcamp since it means very little contact and feedback from others. But between my mentor, the Slack channel for other students, the Facebook group, and local meetups for Bloc students I have felt like my work can be effectively critiqued and I get plenty of participants for the assignments that require user feedback..” –Heather, 5 stars on Course Report

“The mentorship is the best part of Bloc.  I had the privilege of having two mentors throughout the course, both of whom were fantastic.  They both had a great way of breaking down abstract ideas into something I could understand, were always willing to answer my questions, and continue to provide me support even after the completion of the course.” –Anthony, 5 stars on SwitchUp

“My mentor gave me lots of encouragement and gave me the confidence to call myself a designer. Also the feedback and critique I receive from the community is invaluable. I learned to talk about design and give other people feedback by providing feedback on their work.” –Tina, (See her review here.)

How did Bloc help you land a job?

“Bloc changed my life for the better. I am now employed as a web developer, where I can do what I love to do as a job. In the future, I hope to make a positive impact on the world through web development.” –Anthony, (See his review here.)

“One of the reasons I took the course was because I wanted to be in a career which I will love. My dad always told me that if I love my work I will never work another day and that was my endgame. It was a hard journey to take and am glad I didn’t give up. Now everyday I look forward to my work and I smile knowing I am exactly where I wanted to be.” –Jeya, (See her review here.)

Is it okay I’m a beginner?

“I didn’t know how to build web apps at all, just some very basic HTML and CSS sites, at the end of the course I knew how to build complex web apps in Ruby on Rails.” –Enrique, 5 stars on Course Report

“My background is a business degree and experience in banking and insurance so needless to say… Coding is completely new to me. I started with working through some Codecademy courses to see if I liked it and then decided to get serious and that is when I started to consider a bootcamp.” –Stephen, 5 stars on SwitchUp

 

We believe Bloc works. And it changes people’s lives. But we don’t expect you to take our word for it. The results should speak for themselves. We encourage you to read all of Bloc’s reviews on Course Report or SwitchUp!

 

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Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

At Bloc, we are dedicated to helping aspiring developers and designers achieve their professional goals. Whether you’re a current teacher looking to become a UX Designer, or a product manager interested in learning more to progress your career, our mission is to help you succeed and provide you a supportive learning community. We’re thrilled to have helped Melissa and Kristen reach their goals after graduating from the Design Track. Congratulations to them and the other students we’ve had the pleasure of working with!

Melissa Jaen

Position: Web Designer
Company: PatientPop in Santa Monica, CA
Bloc Program: Designer Track

Tell me: what were you doing before Bloc?
I was a TEFL Certification Instructor with an MA in linguistics

Why did you end up taking Bloc?
I love linguistics and wanted to find a career that would combine the ethnographic research skills from my academic field with my love for design. I chose Bloc because their advisors were by far the most respectful, the least judgmental in terms of my wants and abilities as a woman, and because Bloc offered a part-time online option, which was integral to me as someone who couldn’t quit her job for a bootcamp. I also LOVED the mentorship aspect, and learned an incredible amount from my thrice-weekly meetings with my mentor, Chris.

How did taking Bloc change your life?
Bloc changed my life because it gave me an entirely new skill set that is marketable, that will enable me to work remotely one day, and that might even lead to awesome amalgamations of linguistics and UX, like conversation design, interfaceless UX, and working with systems like Siri and Alexa!

What advice would you give to other Bloc students that are currently looking for a job?
Just keep at it and go to the meet-ups! Don’t be afraid to speak out in Slack and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You grow so much through talking it out. Know that you get out of Bloc exactly what you put in, and be ready to live and breathe your field of study!

Which project (portfolio, capstone, etc.) are you most proud of?
http://www.melissajaen.com/aqui.html

Kristen Stevens

Position: Associate Product Manager
Company: Kasasa in Austin, TX
Bloc Program: Designer Track

Tell me: what were you doing before Bloc?
Product management in the health IT space at athenahealth

Why did you end up taking Bloc?
I was curious to learn more about UX Design and wanted to specialize my career in building front-end, client-facing products for users. As a product manager, it was important for me to understand at a deeper level the “how” that goes into designing and developing products people use. I believe these skills would make me a better leader.

How did taking Bloc change your life?
With the knowledge I have gained at Bloc, I now have experience in product, UX, and front-end development which is incredible in tech. With the skills I have gained, I can be more versatile and work better with the teams I lead and most importantly, how to empathize with users and build products that meet their needs.

What advice would you give to other Bloc students that are currently looking for a job?
Be persistent, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help or to simply learn from them. During this time I have used social media to make connections and meet with Product and UX Design leaders in Austin, TX. It’s incredible what you can learn from them and how learning from others’ experiences can help you decide which path you want to take in your career.

Celebrate the small victories! Passing your assessment, completing a section in your program, landing that first job interview. Being positive and celebrating these moments will keep you going when it gets tough.

Use the 100 “No”s to “Yes” method. Each time I got a rejection, I added that company to my list of company rejections and celebrated. Why? Because each “No” I received meant I was closer to receiving a “Yes”. It took me 23 “No”s to finally get my “Yes” with a company that has a great culture, strong community, and is a right fit for me and for them.

Which project (portfolio, capstone, etc.) are you most proud of?
http://www.kristengstevens.com

We couldn’t be happier to have had the privilege of teaching Melissa and Kristen. If you’re interested in design or development, reach out and learn more on how Bloc can change your life. Schedule a call with a Student Advisor today!

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Bloc’s CEO and Alumni Give a Live Q&A

One of the Bloc values is “Rely on data and feedback.” We believe that this should not only apply to how we operate internally at Bloc, but also to prospective students. In that vein, we consistently get questions from people interested in changing their careers and becoming developers and designers. Our CEO, Clint Schmidt, hosted a live Q&A with alumni Katelyn Hertel, Andrew Levinson, and Devon Henegar, to answer some of these questions from their perspectives. We highlighted some of their best responses here. Some answers have been edited for clarity or brevity.

Katelyn is a Rails Course alumni and now works at Fastly as a Customer Support Engineer.

Andrew is a Designer Track alumni and now works at Devbridge as a Product Designer.

Devon is a current Software Engineer Track student and is working at IBM as an Engineer Intern.

Clint: How did you know you were ready to enroll in Bloc? What was the tipping point for you?

Katelyn: I went to college for history and classical studies and realized that I wasn’t going to make any money and that I would be miserable. I ended up dropping out my last semester of college to become a full-time nanny and that was terrible. I remember around me saying that technologies are [something worth looking into]. I ended up with Bloc and was very happy I did.

Andrew: I came from a financial consulting background here in Chicago, and it took years to pull the trigger [on Bloc]. I knew I wanted to get more involved in design and development. I was learning a lot on the side and I was working with my company to figure out if maybe they would help carve out that role for me and it kind of wasn’t happening. So, towards the end of the year, I kind of just said this is it. I needed to break off and take that chance and you know, pressure that passion and never look back.

Devon: I’ve been looking for a career change for, like, three years before I found Bloc. And for about a year of that, I was sure I wanted to do it in some kind of programming. A good friend of mine had kind of talked me towards it and I’d seen how successful he had been being with it and that it was a really directional way to go. I would have done it a lot earlier had I had the ability to, but it was definitely a good change.

Clint: What other options did you consider? And why did you choose Bloc over those other options?   

Devon: So originally I was looking at going back to a four-year University, I’m a graduate of the University of Maine. I could have done a second-degree program with just the computer science type courses to do that change but it’s a small school and the way Skype classes are scheduled, it would have still taken three years because a number of things are only offered every couple of years. I ended up coming down to a couple of options at the end but with Bloc, I came to a seminar and talked to a few people who were students there at the time and [it] really seemed like it had the best rating.

Andrew: I come from a background in business, I have a B.A degree in accounting. And I was looking at either boot camp apprenticeship type of things, or potentially getting a masters degree but as many of you know, especially people looking at design like there’s not a lot of formal four-year masters programs for design that focus on practical applications. In my case in 3 months after Bloc, I was able to get a job as a designer. So once I narrowed it down, I ended up going with Bloc, because the reviews were amazing, I love the idea of a mentorship, so being able to meet with a mentor one-on-one 3 times a week is really huge. For me specifically, I loved that the design track included front-end development basics because that was huge for me knowing that I’d go into an environment where I was working with developers. Bloc was able to give me a full range of skills whereas other boot camps could not.

Katelyn: I looked at several different boot camps, I was looking at a lot of in-person boot camps in New York, including app Academy, and dev bootcamp. When I did more research I saw that many people were upset by the fact that you’re in a classroom setting with an instructor and you aren’t getting the 1-on-1 attention that you really do need to become a great developer. I saw that Bloc was not in person and it does have 1-on-1 mentorship, that was something that appealed to me. It made a difference in my coursework, I was on the Ruby and Rails track and having that special time with my mentor made a difference. If I had done an in-person boot camp, I wouldn’t have all the skills I [received] from Bloc.

Clint: What elements were most helpful to you?

Katelyn: Mentorship was very important to me, I looked to my mentor [Brittany] as a teacher but also as friend and an equal to someone in the job position that I strive to be in. [I was] able to hear her real life experience and have her push me in the right direction and prep me interviews and answer all of the questions I could come up with in the time I was with her.

Andrew: I second a lot of what Katelyn said, I think the mentorship is huge, I think for any curriculum there’s a level of formality with it that has to be there. My mentor, Terry has a double digit experience in the field, is a branding expert, he has all these credentials, so he can tell me exactly what it’s like, steering me the right way and then also having that friendship is huge too. For the design track, it was really important for me to see some kind of structured checkpoint driven work, but then let me loose on a project where it’s just you learning the design process, working on projects independently. That’s what I did at my [job] interview, where I was in a room with other designers walking through my project I created at Bloc and that’s what got me the job.

Devon: I’m going to be a broken record and say that the mentorship is the shining star of the system. There are points throughout the [program] where you get frustrated and stuck and need somebody to walk you through it and help and explain exactly what it was.

Clint: Do you care to comment on the emotional journey that you experienced as a student at Bloc?

Katelyn: I didn’t like it in the beginning because I told myself that I could get away with only putting in a couple of hours and just get by. I didn’t realize that I really needed to pay attention. I got frustrated in the beginning because it was harder than what I expected, but then, towards the middle [of the program] I was so far ahead of my coursework. I was able to get a job 3 weeks before graduation so that was amazing and emotional.

Clint: Did you have a hard time maintaining motivation?

Devon: I think the pacing is really important, the checkpoints that Bloc gives you shows you how much you should be getting done during the week or the percentage you have completed. While it’s hard doing the same thing I do at my job, I go home and get the work done.

Clint: How would you advise prospective students in the decision making process?

Andrew: I’d say do enough research. Make sure you are following the prerequisites. So you know that this is what’s right for you.

Devon: Don’t do it for a better salary, make sure you really want to do this program.   


Think Bloc could be for you? Schedule a call with a Student Advisor to learn more about our programs and get any questions you have answered.

 

 

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Why do students choose Bloc? Alumni and current students give their feedback

This post was written by Mary Bergeron, Director of Marketing at SwitchUp. 


Bootcamps have grown quickly in recent years, and students now face more choice than ever. According to SwitchUp’s research there are over 120 in-person bootcamps worldwide, and many more online programs. The sudden surge is the result of a widening skills gap in tech: the need for talent has exploded in recent years, and employers say there are not enough skilled candidates to meet the demand.

A bootcamp can be a great option to skill-up or switch careers, but it is definitely an investment that can be out-of-reach for some: According to SwitchUp’s 2016 survey, the average bootcamp runs for 11 weeks and costs around $13,000. In order to attend, most students face the prospect of quitting their day jobs and using either savings or a loan to fund the program. In response, many students have turned to low-cost or free online courses to start building skills. These courses are helpful, but many lack the one-on-one mentorship and tailored curriculum that students need to land a job in tech.

Bloc’s model is unique because it bridges the gap between an in-person and online bootcamp through a mentor-led, flexible program. Reviewers on SwitchUp found this approach to be the perfect fit: they were able to schedule Bloc around other commitments, but enjoyed the same level of accountability as an in-person program.

Below, we’ve profiled a few stories from reviewers, and the aspects of Bloc that made the program the best choice for them.

  1. The course strikes a balance between flexible and rigorous.

Students at Bloc tend to take on more than the typical bootcamp student, since many balance the program with other responsibilities. On SwitchUp, reviewers talked about their experience juggling the program with work or school. A common observation is that even though the program can be tailored to an individual’s schedule, it covers a lot of ground. One reviewer talked about his experience:

“I would heartily recommend Bloc to anyone looking for a cost-effective route to a new career in the ever burgeoning tech field. I’m only several weeks into the course so far, but I have learned plenty about basic user research, design principles, wireframing in Balsamiq and Illustrator, and constructing interfaces in Sketch. I’m on the part-time schedule (10-15 hrs/wk), which is a great option for people who need to work. I meet with my mentor once a week and it’s a quick 30 mins but we do go through what I’ve worked on that week and he offers his insights. This aspect of the program is probably most valuable, having a seasoned professional to learn from. I know as the course gets more in depth, I’ll benefit even more from having a mentor.”

  1. The program leverages technology to make remote learning easier.

One of the biggest challenges of an online program is that it is self-directed, so it can be difficult to keep moving when you’re stuck. Bloc students loved that the online platform is designed to help them keep track of their progress and access feedback in real time. The platform makes it easy to connect with a mentor, track assignments, and complete a final assessment via video chat. One student explains:

“At this pace, I meet with a mentor twice a week for about 1/2 hour via Screenhero (an app where you can make phone calls and also share your screen with the person you are connected with) – wonderful for showing your mentor exactly what you are dealing with on your end!

So far I am very happy with the Bloc Curriculum. They split up the program into Modules. Throughout each module there are quizzes to test your knowledge, and at the end of each module you have to pass an assessment (which is like a mock interview via Google video chat) to make sure you have a good enough understanding of the content to move onto the next module.”

  1. Bloc builds in a supportive community.

We’ve often heard the criticism that online learning can lack the support system a student needs. Fields like UX design and software engineering are complex, and it’s important for students to overcome challenges quickly with the help of peers and mentors. Reviewers felt that although Bloc is online, it does a great job of building a personal, supportive community:

“I decided that Bloc was the right choice for me. In just seven months, I have been able to begin building a solid portfolio of design and front-end development work. In this time, I’ve also learned how to use approximately a dozen design tools and received extensive one-on-one direction from my mentor, who has been there to help me every step of the way. Whenever I’ve felt stuck on or needed feedback on an assignment, I’ve been able to connect with fellow students and receive feedback within hours, if not minutes. The cost-coupled with the hands-on mentorship you receive and the tools that you are exposed to-has been absolutely worth it for me. There is a tremendous amount to learn, but I absolutely feel that I made the right choice. There is a long road ahead before I’ll be ready to make my mark in the Design field, but I don’t feel that any other program could prepare me for the challenge as well as Bloc has thus far. Highly recommended!”


What else do students and alumni have to say about Bloc? Check out more reviews on SwitchUp or schedule a call to speak with a Bloc Student Advisor 1-on-1. 

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Thinking beyond designer*

This article was written by Chris Courtney, Bloc’s Designer Track Program Director.

What does it mean to be a ‘designer’ in a world that continues to adopt new definitions for the work that designers do and how can you possibly create a career in such a turbulent environment?

When I got started as a visual designer (it was a long time ago), there were a number of designers that I didn’t know the name of but I knew their work. I would spend hours in the magazine section at the nearest bookstore pouring over the titles on display.  

One of the titles I always gravitated to was Ray Gun.

Ray Gun was the gritty, distorted, visual tone that defined the ’90s for me. I was a dumb kid, so I knew very little about David Carson, who was the visual genius behind those issues. To me, it was simply a visual companion to ‘Downward Spiral’ that was delivered monthly and gave me an excuse to try every terrible Photoshop filter I could find.

What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that Ray Gun was providing me with tangible proof that presentation IS content and you couldn’t just tack on design at the end of the production cycle.

Like most young designers, it would take me years to learn that design wasn’t something to be done in a vacuum. In my case, I was getting terrible advice from my university professors because they were preparing me for how the publication world worked in the 80s and early 90s. They had no clue how the world might change after I graduated and were only interested in preparing me for the market that existed at that specific moment in time.

It’s easy to build partial designers that can go get a job. It’s much harder to build a designer who can have a long career.

At that same time I was banging my head against the wall in Arkansas, further north, a young Aaron Draplin was drawing inspiration from the same David Carson as he began honing his unique approach to visual design.  

Anyone familiar with Draplin’s work knows that he is a masterful visual designer and an extremely entertaining public speaker. His “Tall Tales From a Large Man” is a must-see for anyone considering a career as a designer.

I recently crossed paths with Aaron at the Field Notes/DDC meetup in Chicago and asked him to weigh in on the ongoing debate around whether visual design matters in a world where ‘how it works’ is universally accepted as being more important than ‘what it looks like.’

‘If you want to talk about the importance of design, let me tell you about a parking ticket I got while speaking at a conference in San Francisco,’ Draplin began.

Draplin was on the receiving end of something no one likes — a ticket — but still recalled the intuitive, efficient design of the payment processing flow that allowed him to take care of the issue quickly from his phone.

‘I was taken back by all the care that went into making the experience seamless, but also by the care that was placed into the visual design itself,’ Draplin explained. ‘Especially compared to a similar situation I had in Boston.’

Draplin didn’t bother to make a case for the importance of visual design because he knows there is more to design than how it looks, how it works, or how it is delivered. There is a world of considerations and dependencies in the world of design, something he references numerous times throughout his appropriately titled ‘Pretty Much Everything.’

In fact, most professionals would agree that design itself simply can’t exist as an a la carte exercise. Finally, the world is at the point where we accept Design as a cohesive craft that is inclusive of a number of dependent disciplines that support and hold the other accountable.

So if we accept that Design is a cohesive craft, why do educational institutions keep trying to simplify what we expect from the practitioners of this craft.

They are selling you a partial truth because the full picture is daunting for someone just starting out.

Modern designers must be able to identify and research problems empathetically, produce quality solutions that can be tested, and write the code associated with their work.

That’s the big truth that everyone else wants to chop something that will seem more approachable—and more attractive for the price.

But I’m not alone in my position on this topic.

WordPress’ John Maeda has a brand that aligns with my vision of the modern designer.

In his recently released Design In Tech report, he defines a designer who has traits of the classical visual designer, the business-minded design thinker, and the code-centric front-end developer as a ‘Computational Designer.’

Many that are currently in the industry could simply pick up these extra attributes, but life tends to conspire against those currently employed leaving these generational leaps that happen to be filled by those hungry enough (or curious enough) to do the hard work needed to capture the jobs that will go unfilled until enough of these designers are created.

As Maeda points out, companies of every size are hungry for this modern designer because they uniquely possess the ability to make decisions while considering business, aesthetic, and functional applications. These are the decisions that transform how businesses function and provide any organization with a competitive advantage.

But you won’t find yourself in that position if you aren’t empathetic to your user…

or fail to value the importance of graceful solutions (visual or not)…

or desire to leave the delivery of your work up to someone else.

In many ways, Designer Track was constructed with Design in Tech as its North Star. I felt that way after reading John’s 2016 report and feel the same way with the relaunch of Designer Track in the wake of the 2017 approach.

Earlier this year we embarked on an industry survey of hiring managers for their feedback and have now tuned our curriculum to meet the standards of organizations like Google, IDEO, & the failing New York Times.

The combination of our industry-focused curriculum, dedicated mentorship, and career services gives students a firm foundation to begin their journey on. When combined with mentor-led community support before, during, and after the program and it’s easy to see how Bloc could put a tuition-reimbursement guarantee behind Designer Track.

But it is about more than money. This is also about time.

Will a short UX program only get you a job when what you really need is a career?

Does commuting to a classroom environment make the most of your time when you could spend that time learning from a world-class mentor in a one-on-one environment?

This is the most exciting time in the history of our industry to become a designer. The tools have never been better, the problems have never been bigger, and the stakes have never been higher. How far you go will be greatly impacted by how you start.

We’d love to speak to you about your design journey. Join us at an online info session hosted by Chris, or schedule a call with one of our Student Advisors.

Register for an info session →

Schedule a call →

 

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