Bloc Info session recap from Friday, Sep. 6

Things we discussed:

  • The Bloc curriculum
  • How Bloc is focused on mentorship
  • Details about Bloc's mentors and their backgrounds (and open source contributions)
  • Why we think the apprenticeship model is the future
  • Details about payment plans
  • Our technology choices (and why  you should care)

(the questions begin at 19:47)

 

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Bloc info session: The 12-Week Web Development Apprenticeship

In this info session, we discuss details about our curriculum, how Bloc is different (and better!) than other web development courses, how mentorship is critical to learning web development, tuition and payment plans, and much more. Have a look!

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Alumni Spotlight: Brian Ortega

Brian-Ortega-Photo

 

Brian’s Story

I originally went to Bloc to get the skills I needed to prototype some ideas for side projects/startups. During and after the course I tried building one of my ideas (a language learning website focused on developing reading skills). The course gave me a solid foundation from which to approach the many unanswered questions I had regarding architecture, design and implementation. The main takeaway I had from working on this was the recognition that I needed to learn a lot more and that I had only just begun my journey as a developer. I still felt satisfied that I had been able to make an honest effort on what I already knew would be a challenging project.

It was because of this experience that I took time off to pursue a range of smaller projects to gain knowledge and develop more frontend skills to complement the Rails skills I developed at Bloc. During the course of my continued education (I got invited back to Bloc to try out the new course material while simultaneously taking a frontend course), I had the opportunity to interview with some NYC startups. I eventually joined Plyfe as a software engineer. By this point I knew that I would need to work on something at scale if I ever wanted to take any of my side projects live and feel confident that I could contribute to a startup as a developer. Plyfe is a Rails shop that uses Backbone/Marionette for it’s frontend. The experience I gained at Bloc was very applicable.

Here are links to some of my side projects:

Q&A with Brian

1. Tell us about your experience with your mentor. Was there a time when you were stuck and your mentor helped you through it? In what ways did he/she facilitate your learning?

During my first experience with Bloc (I was in one of the early cohorts), I was mentored by Dave Paola. He was very helpful in recommending different things for me to try out (e.g., I never thought of using Redis to store dictionary entries, learned about using Vagrant/Virtualbox on Windows, etc.) He was very encouraging. Early on he helped me break down my idea for the language site into smaller tasks that I could tackle; before this I had tried to do too much at once. I eventually got a better feel for breaking things down into smaller tasks and was able to progress more smoothly because of this.

When I was invited back to try out the updated Bloc material, my mentor was Adam Louis. This time around there was an added emphasis on Ruby programming skills upfront. Adam was very helpful in terms of feedback on these and I learned a lot of interesting functional programming techniques and novel ways to use arrays. By this point I wasn’t getting stuck as often since I was already fairly knowledgeable, but I still greatly valued his feedback and enjoyed comparing notes with him on how to get my code more concise.

2. What were your goals coming into the program? Have they been met?

My primary goal was to become knowledgeable enough to start prototyping my own ideas, with the understanding that I would still need to keep learning and growing well after I completed the course. In that regard my expectations were certainly met. My expectations were exceeded when I realized that my Rails experience with Bloc had sufficiently prepared me to contribute as a software engineer at a startup. Before working as a software engineer, I had always felt that there was this large gap between my skills and that of a ‘real’ software engineer. Looking back, I realize that my fears were unfounded and that the most valuable takeaway I had from the course was learning how to keep learning. The foundation you build with the course may or may not be directly applicable to your future endeavors, but by taking on challenges you build the confidence and skills needed to figure out how to tackle any problem going forward.

3. What about Bloc surprised you?

What surprised me the most was the awesome revamp of the course compared to what I had started with. It has really come a long way and keeps improving. I am also surprised by how much learning can occur remotely. I’ll admit that I was hesitant about taking a development course online, but my experiences with Bloc have been excellent and I have no problems recommending it alongside in-person development courses as a viable option.

4. Have you developed any lasting relationships with people you met through Bloc?

Since the vast majority of people I met through Bloc were in California or elsewhere (i.e., not NYC where I live), I never really developed any lasting relationships. It also didn’t help that I didn’t find anyone with similar interests, but every cohort varies. That being said, I enjoyed working with my mentors and would be happy to help anyone with their projects if the opportunity arose.

5. What tips do you have for future students?

Take time to understand the Rails asset pipeline. It’s not enough to rely on Rails magic to get your frontend in order; you must have some idea of how Rails interacts with its assets to properly build a reliable web app. Also, use Bootstrap sparingly until you have developed a better feel for html/css. Finally, if you are using Heroku to host your app, just use Postgres as your database. You can easily spend days debugging database issues that would not exist if you were using the same database for development and production.

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Alumni Spotlight: Hiram Vazquez

Hiram Vasquez Photo

 

Hiram’s story

During my freshman year at Carnegie Mellon I decided to take Introduction to Programming as part of the Electrical and Computer Engineering major. I was lost. I was able to pass the course after putting in a good amount of work, but I had to drop a more advanced class the following year after becoming REALLY lost and falling way behind. After that, I was intimidated by programming and chose to focus on the electrical engineering part of my program. Deep down I knew that I wanted to work with Internet companies and not as an electrical engineer.

After college I went to work for IBM doing consulting and working with startups. I never coded, and I believe it held me back. I tried to learn on my own a few times but I would always get stuck. Each time that I tried and failed to learn programming I would get more and more frustrated, especially since my ideal job is working as a Product Manager for an internet company (a role usually occupied by people with coding experience). I quit my job and started doing freelance consulting work while I tried to figure out my next steps.

As part of my New Year’s resolution I decided that I was going to try once again to learn how to code. During my research I came across Bloc and decided it was my best option, mostly because I knew I would need some guidance from a mentor. Bloc really helped me get rid of the negative association I had with learning how to code. I proved to myself that I could learn to code and build something useful from scratch.

I’m currently getting programming experience working on personal projects and freelance gigs and I’m building a portfolio to show-off my work. I believe I’m on the path of either getting that Product Manager job that I’ve always wanted or maybe even starting my own web business.

Q&A with Hiram

1. How has your Bloc program impacted your life?

I grew more and more frustrated after each failed attempt at learning how to code on my own. When I enrolled at Bloc, I was able to fly through the first few parts since I had previous knowledge that helped me out. When things got more complex, I had my mentor, Andy Bas, work through things with me. Now, I am very close to completing my first project (a music sharing blog).

In my free time I’m a DJ and constantly get emails from friends asking for new music. It became kind of time consuming to send different songs to different friends so I decided to build an app where my friends could listen to whatever I’m into at the time. I worked with Ruby gems like Devise, API’s like Embedly, and front-end frameworks such as Foundation. Right now a small jQuery bug is preventing me from launching the app, but I think I can have it ready soon.

2. Tell us about your experience with your mentor. Was there a time when you were stuck and your mentor helped you through it? In what ways did he/she facilitate your learning?

My mentor, Andy Bas, was awesome. Even though he had a pretty hectic schedule at times, he always found time to help me out, sometime multiple times a day. One thing I appreciated is that he would give me hints and help me go in the right direction as opposed to simply solving the issue for me. For complex issues I would share my screen and we would pair program, which I found extremely useful. Andy was also good about sharing online resources related to whatever I was working on.

3. What were your goals coming into the program? Have they been met?

My main goal coming into the program was to put together an MVP for web applications I wanted to build. This goal was definitely met and I now feel comfortable coding basic apps by myself.

4. What about Bloc surprised you?

The accessibility of Bloc mentors and employees surprised me. Whenever I had an issue I was able to contact any member of the staff and would get assistance without having to wait long periods of time.

5. What tips do you have for future students?

I would recommend finding a coding mentor or coding partner outside of Bloc (preferably in the same city) during or after the bootcamp. Now that Bloc has ended, I’m back to having issues finding someone to discuss code with. Since Bloc is self-paced, it was difficult to find someone in my cohort that was working on similar parts of the course. I was only able to collaborate with one person, but, but because he is in India and I am in Puerto Rico it was difficult to manage the difference in time zones.

It’s very important is to have patience and never give up. It took me some time to feel like I could really build something on my own, but with dedication and patience it’s certainly possible.

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Alumni Spotlight: Seth Siegler

Seth Siegler Photo

 

Here’s what Seth Siegler had to say about his Bloc experience.

Seth’s Story

By the time I attended Bloc I had already founded and sold my own startup company. Being a solo non-programming founder is not something I would ever want to do again. I had to pay someone else for every line of code, and whenever I had an idea I had to pay someone else to implement it. I’m lucky to have sold the technology from that company, and this event marked a turning point in my career philosophy. I knew I needed to switch from my php, product manager background to a RoR paradigm. I tried to learn to code on my own using the Hartl tutorial, but I wasn’t able to absorb much of it. I was beginning to think that Ruby on Rails might not be in my wheelhouse, but luckily I didn’t give up. Bloc hammered it in, and now I’m a Rails developer with my own booming business.

Q&A with Seth

1) How has your Bloc program impacted your life?

Bloc completely changed my life. I went from product manager to programmer. I used to be tortured by all the ideas I had for web apps that I could never actually build unless I paid someone else to do it. Now I’m able to prototype and build anything that pops into my head. Once others learned that I was a Ruby programmer, freelance jobs started coming out of the woodwork. I quit my job and started my own application development company, freeing myself up to make more money and allowing for extra time to pursue my own startup ideas on the side.

2) Tell us about your experience with your mentor. Was there a time when you were stuck and your mentor helped you through it? In what ways did he/she facilitate your learning?

My mentor was Roshan. There were countless times when he helped me out when I was stuck, but more than anything (and I tell everyone about this), the Bloc curriculum combined with Roshan’s mentorship taught me how to learn how to program. Instead of just giving me the answers, Roshan showed me where to find them and how to approach code problem solving. This has proved quite useful in the continuation of learning that takes place after Bloc ends. Everyday I’m learning more about Ruby and Rails and I can now teach myself other frameworks and languages like Rubymotion.

3) What were your goals coming into the program? Have they been met?

My goal coming into the program was to be able to prototype my own ideas. This goal has been far exceeded. I was given much more than what I originally expected and I now feel confident enough to tackle almost any project that comes my way.

4) What about Bloc surprised you?

My biggest surprise about Bloc was how much contact I had with mentors and other students. I assumed that because Bloc is online we would be mostly on our own with occasional contact. I was wrong. I was constantly in contact with students and mentors whenever and wherever I was working.

5) What tips do you have for future students?

My advice for a future student would be this: It’s not going to be easy but it’s going to be WELL worth it. If you push yourself and really dedicate the time, you can be a full-on programmer at the end of this thing. There is no better skill to have these days, and it opens up a world of opportunity in any city in any country.

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6 Questions to Answer Before Choosing a Web Development Course

If you’re ready stop “tinkering” and invest in an intensive, professionally oriented web development course, you’ve got a lot of options. When you reach your frustration boiling point with online tutorials and self-study books, you’ll seek out a proper course (keeping in mind your needs, wallet, and calendar).

We’ve come up with six questions that are important to answer before committing to a web development course. We’ve tailored the corresponding responses to illustrate the ways in which Bloc may be a good fit for you.

1.) What is your end goal? What do you want to do after the course? What level of web development competency do you need or want?

Consider carefully what you want to attain before committing to any course and be sure you know what to expect and what will be expected of you. If you merely want to tinker with the basics of web development, Bloc probably is not right for you. If you are looking to gain a holistic set of skills and the seeds of web development mastery in order to change or advance your career or prototype your original ideas, Bloc may be right for you (read on!). Bloc is designed to provide professional competency in web development.

2.) How much time are your prepared to invest in your learning?

We agree with Peter Norvig about learning programming: “Personal experience… is far more useful and reassuring than the thousands of pages written by experts”. And gaining that experience takes time. Are you ready to make such a formidable time commitment? (link: http://bit.ly/174R2W6)

At Bloc, we expect you to dedicate approximately 25 hours per week for 12 weeks to your apprenticeship-style course. We have found that this time commitment works for most people, although we know that it may vary by individual. Much of what sets Bloc apart from other intensive web development programs is that we adapt to the schedule and location that works for you. But be prepared to work through our curriculum and spend time with your mentor, which may require some strong time management skills. The course is just twelve weeks long, so every week and every hour counts. Think about how your time commitment complements your goals–your work at Bloc may become burdensome or fall by the wayside if you find yourself unsure if professional web development competency is something you want.

Intensive in-person development bootcamps require being physically present at a campus for around eight hours a day for up to three months. This can be an effective way to learn web development, but at Bloc we know that relocation isn’t possible for everyone.

3.) Can you concentrate without a teacher present to command your attention? Are you willing to do the work?

Know that there are many free and inexpensive web development programs that will allow you to tinker with coding at a leisurely pace. Expect to acquire professional-caliber skills only after years of sustained tinkering with these programs. Know that there are high quality professional-grade courses that require your physical attendance (AppAcademy, Dev Bootcamp, etc.).

Bloc is designed to teach you pragmatic skills needed for professional web development through an online platform in a condensed time frame. This requires a high level of concentration and discipline from the student, and the help from your ever-present dedicated mentor. The curriculum is not busy work, so don’t expect to be making dinner and watching a movie while working. Expect 25 hours per week of challenging tasks requiring critical thinking.

Being online is advantageous as we are able to accommodate any schedule and location, but this flexibility can be a disadvantage to the student who doesn’t have the self-discipline to put in the time or focus. Consider if have you the drive needed to make the Bloc course effective

4.) Will you take initiative to work with your mentor when you need help?

Central to Bloc’s effectiveness is the personal attention you receive from an expert mentor. You will have weekly (or more) online meetings with your mentor, where you can can help as you need it. It’s arguably easier to get such instruction with in-person courses because you are physically present with teachers for several hours each day. The teachers can literally see when you get stuck. At Bloc you will need to indicate to your mentor that you need help. They are extremely available to work you through any problems that arise, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Your mentor is totally dedicated to your success, and you should not be reluctant to take advantage of that expertise.

5.) Do you have a specific project in mind that you want to pursue?

The first two-thirds of the Bloc curriculum is designed to give you a strong foundation in web development basics. The remainder of the course is less structured, and focused on building an original project with help from your mentor. While it certainly isn’t necessary, we feel it helps sustain your enthusiasm for learning when you have a project in mind. Also, your project can help propel your skill development beyond our curriculum.

6.) Do you know enough about web development to direct your own instruction? Or have friends that will take an active role in guiding you?

If you have someone willing and sufficiently knowledgeable to guide your studies and review your code along the way, you might be able to develop formidable web development skills without paying for formal instruction.

But if you need really well-crafted, comprehensive curriculum and an expert dedicated to guide you when you get confused, then you might want to consider an in-person coding bootcamp or Bloc.

What if you know enough to be dangerous? High quality intensive web development courses will provide you with a holistic foundation of web development knowledge, starting from the basics. Entering the course with rudimentary knowledge, however, may ultimately allow you to progress further in twelve weeks. You don’t need any experience to have a successful experience at Bloc, but the quality and quantity of learning will be enriched if you have had some exposure to writing code. It can be advantageous to come into the course knowing what you want to learn, or at least having some questions. We are happy to suggest free exercises that we think will be helpful for you to gain comfort with before your Bloc course begins.

Some of our alumni have found it helpful to have a coding partner outside of Bloc (preferably in the same city) during or after the course. Once the course ends it can be difficult to find collaborators. Do you have friends or partners with whom you can discuss code? If not, consider being open to making new connections–we know first hand that learning alone can be difficult.

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This Friday: Online Info Session on Bloc’s 12-Week Web Development Apprenticeship

Learn more about Bloc's 12-week Web Development apprenticeship. We'll discuss how the course is different (and better!) than other web development courses, how mentorship is critical to learning web development, details about the curriculum, tuition and payment plans, and much more.

Sign up here to attend: http://bit.ly/18tg00i

If you can't join us in real-time, check out the slides and audio from last week's session:  http://bit.ly/1bMTTnL

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Alumni Spotlight: Shayon Mukherjee

Shayon Mukherjee Photo

 

Here’s what Shayon Mukherjee had to say about the Bloc experience.

Shayon’s Story

During my freshman year of college I decided to major in computer science. One of the first things I learned is that programming is hierarchical, and that understanding the basic, fundamental concepts of coding is the key to building competency and expertise. When my freshman year ended and I found myself with free time on my hands, I tried to learn web development on my own. I didn’t have an organized way to structure my learning so I kept running into roadblocks. I would encounter a challenge that I simply couldn’t solve, and I had nowhere to turn. The frustration compounded and I eventually gave up.

I joined Bloc in order to gain access to a methodical curriculum as well as to mentors who could help me work through obstacles as I ran into them. This allowed to me successfully navigate the course and ensured that I understood each topic along the way.

Q&A with Shayon

1. How has your Bloc program impacted your life?

I am able to build fundamentally stronger web apps because I attended Bloc. As part of my Bloc capstone project I built an app called TagPort (http://tagport.wrkb.in), which is a tool that allows you to search content via hashtag from both Twitter and Instagram at the same time. It’s currently a little buggy, but it’s a work in progress!

I haven’t had time yet to work on the other ideas that I want to build simply because after Bloc, I started freelancing. At first I wasn’t expecting anything exciting to come out of the freelance work, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. Lately I’ve been getting some serious freelance projects from different parts of the world. This has not only been keeping me busy but has enabled me to buy my own MBP and do a little of travelling as well.

2. Tell us about your experience with your mentor. Was there a time when you were stuck and your mentor helped you through it? In what ways did he/she facilitate your learning?

Andy was always very helpful. It’s difficult to recall specific cases, but I know he was always there when I needed him. In addition to chats via Skype or Vline we would exchange code in emails, and I eventually worked my way through each exercise in the course.

Andy also helped me design the structure of my capstone project. Because my project was somewhat different compared to the rest of the Bloc curriculum, I was able to gain experience in a range of topics (which turned out to be valuable because there was quite a learning curve). Andy helped at each step along the way.

3. What were your goals coming into the program? Have they been met?

I began Bloc with a simple idea­: create a web app. I wasn’t interested in building a simple “Hello World” application; I wanted to build something advanced. I’m unsure how far along I am in terms of having the ability to build an app with the degree of complexity I have in mind, but I do know that I am absolutely on the right path toward creating something that solves real problems. Bloc played a substantial role.

4. What about Bloc surprised you?

I was hesitant about Bloc at first, mostly because I was skeptical about how much web development I could actually learn during the relatively short course. What I realize now is that this depends entirely on the individual. Bloc is online, so there isn’t anyone except yourself to push you or to move you forward.

By the end of the course I was surprised and happy. I feel that I had a really involved mentor who I could reach out when I needed help with web-related issues or when I wanted feedback on new ideas.

5. What tips do you have for future students?

You have to be highly self ­critical and constantly push yourself to reach your goal. Because Bloc is online you have to be diligent about not becoming distracted from your work. At one point during my course the 31 second Harlem Shake video turned into two hours of Twitter rants and Quora posts. It’s easy to put off work until later, and this is almost always a bad decision. Push yourself hard!

Also, don’t get too confident if you find yourself flying through the first few exercises. Anybody can nail a simple “Hello World” program. Try to focus on the tiniest details of each problem/exercise, and constantly ask yourself why an event is happening or an action is being called in a certain way.

 

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Another great testimonial from a Bloc alum!

“I started applying to Rails engineering positions very shortly after Bloc wrapped up. I ended up pretty much having the pick of the litter, and went with my first choice, an amazing web app development shop outside of DC called Viget Labs. Getting this new job has completely transformed my entire life. I really can’t overstate how large of a transformation the move was. I work full time on the Ruby team primarily on new feature development for a pretty wide range of (mostly Rails) web applications. One of the smaller, public projects that I’ve worked on recently is the http://thepaintdrop.com/ which is powered by a custom Rails CMS. The main project I’m working on at the moment is a new social network product for a very well-established company. Can’t go into specifics, but suffice to say, I could never have imagined working on such a large, well polished, and frankly, expensive application as this before my Bloc days.”

Thanks, L !

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