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.