Career Support at Bloc: Know Your Goal

Written by Prachi Singh and Courtland Alves

Students join Bloc to start a new career. After any structured educational program, including Bloc, many students become frustrated during the job hunt. Students don’t know how to effectively spend their time, find a job, or set themselves up for success. The most effective way to quickly find a job is to focus on a single industry vertical (also called a business model or industry) as early as possible.

Common Frustrations

Students become frustrated during the job hunt for many reasons. Many students aren’t sure how to spend their time, they become demoralized when they start to feel like they’re moving away from a job instead of towards one, and ultimately get frustrated when they can’t find a job.

Not Knowing How to Spend Your Time

The first common frustration that students have is not knowing how to spend their time. Students know that they’re supposed to keep learning after Bloc, but what should they focus on? Interview questions? New technologies? Maybe a side-project? They know they should be networking, but how? Who should they network with? What should they talk about? They know they should be applying to jobs, but applying to every open position they see is daunting.

Losing Focus and Forgetting Fundamentals

Another common frustration is that many students move backwards during a job search. Instead of continuing to grow and learn as developers, students forget the fundamentals and haphazardly learn trendy technologies that don’t help their resume. Instead of tactfully building a network of relationships, students weaken their existing network by asking everyone they know for a job. Instead of feeling confident after completing a difficult program, they begin to feel like they’re not worthy of an amazing job.

General Difficulty in Finding a Job

The most unfortunate frustration is the actual difficulty in finding a job. Job seeking students will constantly hear that they need more experience – if their applications even make it to the interview stage. Students who try to network will often find that no one is hiring. We’ve seen amazing students apply to 175 jobs and only hear back from 5 (all rejections) – not because he wasn’t talented, because his approach for his job search wasn’t optimized.

In the end, graduates know they’re supposed to be improving their skills, networking, and applying for jobs, but they don’t have the time to do it all. After weeks or months, they lose their skills, their focus, and their hope.

Finding Focus

To streamline and ensure success in your job search, you should choose and focus on a single industry vertical. An industry vertical is a large group of companies that solve the same problem for a group of customers and share a common business model – think Facebook for social media, Bloc for education, or Amazon for e-commerce. Even with no prior work experience you can choose an industry vertical that is hiring and interesting to you by looking at job openings. This industry will then become the focus of research, networking, and your projects at Bloc.

Analyze Open Positions in Your Area

The first step to focusing on an industry is choosing an industry by analyzing local jobs. By looking at a large number of local jobs that seem interesting, you can figure out what industries near you are hiring. In the assignment at the end of this checkpoint, we’ll build a spreadsheet to do this analysis.

Meet the Right People and Learn the Right Skills

Once you’ve chosen an industry, you’ll learn about the industry and focus on it throughout your time at Bloc. You’ll learn about the industry by researching its companies, products and trends. You’ll meet with professionals in the industry, learn about the problems they solve, and learn what a day in their shoes is like.

The industry you choose will be a focus throughout your time at Bloc. You’ll continue to build your professional network during your time at Bloc. Working with your mentor, you’ll discuss the technologies that the industry is using and whether there are ways that you can learn them at Bloc. You will build projects that focus on your industry as a way to immerse yourself in the industry.

Why Focus Helps

The many frustrations of an unsuccessful job search are mitigated by choosing an industry vertical to focus on. Students who focus on an industry vertical are better able to prioritize what they should learn, who they should meet, and what jobs to focus on. Every week is motivating because they feel themselves moving towards an attainable goal. Students who focus quickly differentiate themselves as job candidates and find jobs they like much faster than they would otherwise.

Focus Helps with Time Management

Managing time becomes much easier once an industry vertical is chosen. Students create projects based on the industry using the technologies that the industry uses. Students are able to prioritize who to reach out to, who to meet, and have industry knowledge to discuss. They know which companies, products, jobs and people to focus on, and which to ignore.

One recent example is a student of ours in Atlanta who chose to focus on Digital Marketing. She learned about digital marketing companies and products and reached out to friends in the digital marketing space. She built an app that helped her track email open-rate and talked about her new project with her friends. Within four weeks she had a paid internship at her dream company.

Focus Drives T-Shaped Skills

We’ve seen how motivating this focus can be and the momentum that it can generate. When students are focused on a single project and technology stack, their knowledge becomes representative of T-shaped skills. Every new connection is able to introduce them to more people in their industry vertical. The student’s project, networking, and job search all reinforce each other and are all focused on an industry that the student is interested in and that is hiring. It’s amazing to see how quickly this focus helps disheartened students become inspired.

Get Better Jobs Faster

Most importantly, students who focus on an industry get better jobs faster. The student becomes familiar with the same technical challenges that engineers at the company face daily. It’s easier for these students to network inside of an industry because they know the same companies and trends as the people they’re meeting with. They transform from “just another junior engineer” to a candidate that has relevant technical experience, is familiar with the customer, and is passionate about what the company is working on.

List of Industry Verticals

Industry verticals group companies by the problems they solve and the way that they solve them. Industry verticals are closely related to business models and revenue models. Although there is no comprehensive list of industries, our favorite is this one created by well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson.

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Bloc Introduces New Financing Options with Skills Fund

Our mission is to turn you into a developer and make our programs accessible to everyone regardless of background or financial circumstance. That’s why we’ve teamed up with lending partner Skills Fund to offer a variety of flexible payment plans. With these new payment options, students can focus on their  education and start making proactive career decisions, rather than having to scramble to pay for tuition up front.

Skills Fund offers monthly payment plans for coding bootcamp programs. Skills Fund goes much farther in evaluating bootcamps by not only scrutinizing the quality of instruction and curriculum, and whether the bootcamp has regulatory approval, but also looks into the return on invest for their students. Skills Fund collects and verifies program completion and job placement rates to verify how effective the bootcamp is at getting their students jobs.

You can now apply for a loan with Skills Fund for Bloc’s Part-Time Web Developer Track and Designer Track. We also offer Bloc in-house payment plans for students that want to pay more of the tuition upfront. Here is an example of all the available Bloc and Skills Fund payment plans for Bloc’s Part-Time Web Developer Track: 

Screenshot 2016-07-25 13.22.46

*Valid as of 7/26/16. For more information and full terms visit Skills Fund

We hope these new financing options will remove barriers to you reaching your goal of becoming a web developer. If you’re ready to get started, there’s nothing you need to do on our end. Just complete your Skills Fund application and receive a pre-approval in less than 10 minutes:

Bloc is also dedicated to ensuring that we make our programs accessible to people from all backgrounds. That’s why we offer scholarships to veterans and women interested launching new careers in tech.  These scholarships can be combined with any payment plan option. If you’d like to learn more, check out the application for the Operation Code Veterans Scholarship or the Women Who Code Scholarship.

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Designer Track vs. UX/UI Design Fundamentals

Students considering a design career often compare Bloc’s Designer Track with its UX/UI Design Fundamentals program. In this post, we’ll answer your most frequently asked questions about these programs.

Have more questions? E-mail hello@bloc.io and we’ll get you an answer pronto!

Who are the programs designed for?

Bloc’s Designer Track is a rigorous training program for beginners who want to switch careers. It combines user experience and user interface fundamentals, prototyping skills, frontend web development programming skills (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery), and a robust career preparation program including portfolio design and interview preparation assistance.

Bloc’s UX/UI Design Fundamentals program is a shorter program that skips most of the Frontend development skills and offers no career preparation assistance. The user experience and user interface content is denser and students must move more quickly. This program is beneficial for students who:

  1. already know how to code and want to learn to make their work more beautiful and intuitive, or
  2. already have a job working with designers and want to improve collaborations with their design team

Both programs are intensive and thorough. Both programs offer the premium, one-on-one mentorship that Bloc is famous for.

What are the major differences?

The differences range from pricing, to pace, to curriculum. Here’s a chart showing most of them:

Designer Track UX/UI Design Fundamentals
Cost $9,800 $5,000
Pace options 24 weeks @ 40 hrs/week

36 weeks @ 25 hrs/week

72 weeks @ 15 hrs/week

Not available full-time

16 weeks @ 25 hrs/week

32 weeks @ 10 hrs/week

Total hours of practice 960–1,080 hours 320–400 hours
Total # of mentor sessions 72 32
Total # of portfolio projects 4 2
UX and UI Fundamentals Yes Yes
Design Tools Yes Yes
Essential HTML/CSS Yes Yes
Testing and Prototyping Yes Yes
Mobile Design Yes Yes
Making a Dev Environment Yes No
Deep Dive into HTML/CSS Yes No
JavaScript Yes No
jQuery Yes No
AngularJS Yes (optional) No
Interview Prep Yes No
Portfolio Assistance Yes No
Placement Assistance Yes No

At a high level, the Designer Track will give you many more hours of practice under the guidance of a skilled mentor. 1,000 hours of practice is the minimum most students need if they are completely switching careers.

What kinds of jobs can a beginner expect to get after each program?

Students who complete the graduation requirements of the Designer Track will find themselves well-prepared for jobs that involve UX/UI design or frontend web development, such as:

  • UI Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • UX Designer
  • Product Designer
  • User Researcher
  • Frontend Developer
  • Product Manager

Students who complete the UX/UI Design Fundamentals program acquire the skills needed to get design projects started, but depending on their background prior to the course, their job opportunities may be more limited. Beginner students who graduate this program often continue learning elsewhere, like a design internship or a special assignment for their current employer. Some start their own company or take additional classes.

For this reason, we recommendation that people changing careers take Designer Track, and students hoping to add research and design skills to their range of abilities take the UX/UI Design Fundamentals program.

How much Frontend does a designer need to know?

This varies by company, but designers who can write Frontend code are highly desirable. Even if their code isn’t used in a final product, designers who can mock up live examples of their designs tend to get hired very quickly.

According to the 2016 DesignInTech report by Kleiner Perkins’ John Maeda, 93% of top designers believe designers should know how to code.

This process is called “prototyping” and all designers should be able to do it. It involves mastery of HTML, CSS, and Git, and comfort with JavaScript and jQuery. The more JavaScript designers learn, the more employable they are.

What is included in the track that isn’t in the fundamentals program?

You can see the table above for a full list, but generally the track supplements the UX/UI course with more mentor sessions, intensive training on frontend web development (including in-depth HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery training), much more practice, and premium career services.

While there are traditional design components to the UX/UI Design Fundamentals program, its main goal is to help students acquire the skills to perform user research and determine if a product should be built. But that is only the first half of the design process arc. Designer Track combines the research, testing and design components from UX/UI with the actual skills needed to build and deploy the projects students come up with. It’s the entire design arc in action and that ability is what employers are looking for.

What should I do if I have more questions?

E-mail hello@bloc.io and we’ll answer them.

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It’s Never Too Late: Patricia’s Journey Coding Over 40

Patricia wanted to become a full time web developer, but being a woman in tech can be difficult. Women face stereotyping and imposter-syndrome and the best way to close the gender gap is to give female coders support systems that can help them thrive. That’s why in 2014, Women Who Code and Bloc partnered to create a Women Who Code scholarship program that offers two women each month a $1000 scholarship toward their Bloc tuition. To-date this scholarship program has funded over $48,000 in Bloc tuition.

Patricia had two mentors while completing the program. For backend web development she worked with John Sawyers, a 20 year software developer veteran who has previously worked as a software architect and CTO. And for frontend development, she was mentored by Alissa Likavec, formerly a City Director for Women Who Code who works as a software engineer at Bedrock Media Ventures in Seattle. Patricia blogged about her experience learning to code as someone over 40. Thanks to John and Alissa’s mentorship, Patricia recently landed a full time job as a developer at ePublishing in San Francisco.

PatriciaEhrhardt

Bloc: What advice would you give to women who are thinking about a coding bootcamp?
Patricia:
Invest in yourself. Don’t make excuses like you can’t afford it. If this is truly something you are passionate about, invest the money, invest the time, invest your heart and soul and it will all work out.

Bloc: Some women report silent stereotyping during the job search. Do you feel your gender made a difference in your recruiting process?
Patricia:
It did but in a very weird way. I started this journey when many tech companies were getting backlash for their non-diverse gender hiring. What happened to me was: I was being recruited to interview for roles that weren’t even a match for my skills [like] IOS/Android development (I know nothing about this and never have studied i,t save for a Meetup or 2) just to have a woman on their roster. I am a woman, a woman of color and over the age of 40, I have a ton of things that may make your company look great and meet some demographics you want, but what I want is to be the best person for the role, regardless of my gender. There are so many of us out there that are so good at what we do and we aren’t being interviewed for that, we are being interviewed to meet a quota. It makes me sad that the tech community still doesn’t get it.

Bloc: Brittany Martin, another Bloc mentor and fellow Women Who Code member, has talked about how 1:1 mentorship reduced the imposter syndrome women can often face in a classroom setting. Did 1:1 mentorship feel like a safer space for you?
Patricia: I picked Bloc specifically for the 1:1 aspect ratio. After 2+ years of learning on my own, I knew I needed to take that step. However, what really “sold” me was that I didn’t have to be in a classroom. I’m over 40 years old, have 2 college degrees and no desire to go back to the classroom. That would have made me feel awkward; not unsafe, but awkward.

It’s funny we talk about the female 1:1 mentorship here, and then mention the imposter syndrome. When I felt BEST about letting that go was with my first mentor, John Sawers. It was the day I was struggling with thinking I had made a mistake because I was not grasping a concept. When he told me, with 20 years experience, [that] he runs into the same feelings, I was floored and vindicated all at the same time. I felt [that] if someone with that much experience and specifically a man in this situation still has bouts of Imposter Syndrome… I’m good.

Bloc: How would you describe your mentor Alissa’s teaching style?
Patricia: Alissa is really great at deciphering oftentimes vague questions. She wants to answer your question so she makes certain she understands what it is you are asking for before going into an answer that may be irrelevant.

Bloc: How did you and Alissa spend your mentor sessions?
Patricia: Mostly discussing where I have gotten stuck and why. Because I studied Ruby first, in JS functions I often am writing recursive functions alot and can’t seem to wrap my head around why this won’t work. Lately she has been great chatting with me about where I am still doing this. Talking to YOU Codewars!

Bloc: How has taking Bloc impacted your life?
Patricia: There is not enough room here to state it all, but in a nutshell, it provided the one on one mentorship that I so desperately needed to get me over the hump of learning online and solo. Also, it provided a platform to work on real live projects and feature my skills to add to my GitHub and ultimately my resume.

Bloc: Are there any examples of stereotyping or difficult situations that you have faced being a female developer that future female developers reading this can learn from?
Patricia: I love attending hackathons, and as much as I love them, I found that in this environment you will see teams of men (they usually win the big prizes, I’ve heard this is a “thing” where male developers go to a couple of “cash prize” hackathons a year and make over 100K) that are not open to [having] a woman on the team. The general vibe I get is that we are too slow or want to learn things (God forbid!) or that we are only good for HTML and CSS. I also hate that people think being frontend or design focused is lower on the rung of the ladder as an engineer. Have you seen how hard Javascript can get? And CSS is no joke! So yes, I have felt stereotyped at hackathons, but the way I get over it is to correct people’s perceptions by actually saying my title: “Hi, I’m Patricia [and] I’m a RoR Engineer,” and let them know I am a polyglot (Ruby,Python and Javascript), then ask them to give me a task. They rarely say no to that.

Bloc: Media and culture sometimes distorts what it’s like to work as a developer. What is it really like being an engineer?
Patricia: Well, I LOVE it! It’s super challenging which I love cos I loathe being bored, extremely precise and I learn something new every hour, no joke. I remember once when I was in RAILS I was struggling with some Rspec tests and sent my mentor a message that was something like “I’m struggling, but I love this stuff” and he told me, I hope you mean that because engineers aren’t working on things that work correctly they are working on things that are broken. So I’d say that if you love fixing things, that is basically what being an engineer is like on a daily basis.

Bloc: Tell us about your new job at ePublishing! What does ePublishing do?
Patricia: ePublishing is a “fully integrated, cloud-based, software as a service backed by custom development, design and obsessive 24 X 7 support.” My role is in that “24/7” support arena. I work on help desk tickets and get mentored daily as I am being groomed to become a senior engineer. My title is Jr RoR Engineer.

I cannot even express how much I love it. It was exactly what I was looking for. I had put out almost 200 Applications/CV’s since the beginning of 2015. I wasn’t one of those people that [kept] saying I need to wait until I graduate. I was ON IT. Those 200 were ONLY for roles that I wanted to do and that I had about 75% of the skills they were looking for. [For most], I never heard back from because my CV would go into the portal of hell where a word cloud would not even let me in. Some I wasn’t a fit for after the interview. A few I turned down because I was told verbatim that they didn’t have a lot of time to support [junior developers]. That was not going to work for me.

Bloc: What are you looking forward to in the future? Where do you see your career heading?
Patricia: What I am most looking forward to is learning and becoming a better engineer everyday at ePublishing, and eventually, I have a long-term goal of creating a piece of software that will be useful for organizations like the Innocence Project, Missing and Exploited Children or homeless organizations, poverty abatement and battered women’s advocates. Maybe I’ll even create software that Google, Facebook or Twitter will use!

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Bloc Reviews: What is it Like Attending Bloc?

Change Your Career with Bloc - top-rated coding bootcamp

by Prachi Singh, Alumni Relations @ Bloc

One of my favorite alums, Brian Douglas, recently told me that by blogging prolifically about his Bloc journey, he constantly gets emails from students asking him about his experience. They ask him questions like:

  • Would you recommend I take Bloc? 
  • How does Bloc.io’s mentor-lead online approach compare to top coding bootcamps like Hack Reactor and Dev Bootcamp?

Brian always says the same thing: Bloc is awesome. It can change your life. But we figured we’d help Brian out by gathering-up Bloc reviews from third-party sites in one place.

Bloc Named One of the Top Rated Coding Bootcamps

Bloc has been named one of the top coding bootcamps of 2015 by SwitchupSkilledup, Techendo, and has been featured in Wired, Business Insider, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, LifeHackerGizmodo. The list goes on.

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

Below you’ll find excerpts from over a dozen Bloc reviews that 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. Not included in this post is interviews and panel discussions we’ve done with our own alumni – here are a few examples of those.

What’s your overall experience been with Bloc?

“Where Bloc differs from the other bootcamps… [is holding] you to a high standard. You must have the hunger to learn, Bloc like any other educational institution can only support your pursuits – but they do it with grace and a level of patience I have never seen in any formal classroom.” –Jigesh, 5 stars

“I heard about Bloc through a friend who had over 10+ years in front end development. Bloc turned out to be an incredible experience. I thought I knew Ruby on Rails and Javascript before joining Bloc… and that was all due to self study. However, after going through Bloc, the difference is night and day. The curriculum is excellent and always improving. You learn through building real world applications in today’s most cutting edge languages and frameworks.” –Carl, 5 stars

How does the part-time option compare with a full-time bootcamp?

“This is why I picked Bloc.  I didn’t want to quit my job or give up my life, but I still really wanted to enroll in a dev boot camp.  Bloc gave me this opportunity.” –Kelson, 5 stars

“I work full-time, so Bloc’s flexible schedule was very appealing to me. I also like Bloc’s ongoing course improvements and offerings such as the new software engineering track. I’d strongly recommend Bloc for busy working professionals looking to make a career change.” –Virginia, 4 stars

“Bloc is one of a few, in my opinion, coding bootcamps that offer a fully online program.  When you’re working full-time AND trying to change careers, this is the only way to go.  I’ve researched several programs and found that this program had the best price to content available.” –Noel D, 5 stars

What feedback do you have on Bloc’s curriculum?

“[The] Bloc curriculum exceeds all expectations from beginner to advanced developers.  Adding the regular direction and coding interactions with developers from Amazon to freelance, and everything in between moves Bloc to the top of the pack of coding bootcamps.  I almost think it is unfair to call it a bootcamp as the knowledge you will gain is much more complete.” –Alvaro Mangual, 5 stars

“The curriculum is laid out in a structured, checkpoint format, growing in skill and difficulty as you move forward. The curriculum does, as some other Bloc reviews have mentioned, hand-hold on the early stages. Though this can seem off-putting to some, this technique is essential when it comes to teaching a student with ZERO coding experience… Checkpoints present you with a lesson and then giving you coding challenges / problems to complete afterwards. Many of them challenge you to think beyond a rote use of the code presented — it challenges you to think of new ways to learn code you have been presented with. This structure is a great entry into the way the coding world actually exists – taking knowledge you know and extending it towards new uses.” –Brandon, 5 stars

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

Patricia Ehrhardt is a woman over 40 who switched careers with Bloc. Her Bloc reviews were recently featured in WeAretheCity“One on One genius [Mentorship] is the golden ticket to why Bloc is successful. The caliber of mentors that Bloc chooses may happen behind the scenes, but as a student I see and experience their expertise everyday.” –Patricia, 5 stars (Patricia also just landed a full-time job at ePublishing and her story was featured in WeAreTheCity!)

“I was completely blown away with my mentor. He was an amazing programmer and [an even better] teacher… I was challenged and tested at every turn. Not only did he teach me JavaScript, jQuery, AngularJS, and even how to build an Alexa Skill for Amazon, he taught me how to solve my own problems and… how to think first, then act my way out of the bug.” –Michael Medis, 5 stars

Recent alum Katelyn shares her Bloc reviews in a recent Q&A“I am currently on a plane to San Francisco from NYC for a job interview. I couldn’t have gotten here without Bloc and my mentor, Brittany. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND HER!) Bloc really puts a lot of effort into the mentor mentee relationship and I think that is a huge reason why I’ve been so successful! I really can recommend Bloc enough. I might have a job by the end of the week and I haven’t even graduated yet. You won’t be sorry, trust me!” –Katelyn Hertel, 5 stars (She got the job she was interviewing for! Check out her story here.)

How did Bloc help you land a job?

“I’m now coming towards the end of my course and am applying for jobs. Bloc has a career and job prep section which has a wealth of useful info. They help you prepare you LinkedIn and Github pages and even run mock interviews so the first dreaded ‘white board’ test isn’t so scary. In less than a week of sending a few applications out, I’ve been contacted by three companies, I went to interview yesterday (so fingers crossed). Bloc has definitely prepared me for a career change and given me the tools to do so.” –Alice, 5 stars

“The curriculum is very thorough, and the team at Bloc is very passionate about seeing students succeed, providing a lot of job support, mock interviews, etc. The apps we make during the program are fun to work through and leave you feeling accomplished.” –Anthony, 5 stars

Do I need prior coding experience to be successful with Bloc?

“Before I joined Bloc I had never written a single line of code. I was a full-time middle school teacher for four years…. Other coding schools require you to have some sort of pre-existing skill, and they only accept students who pass certain benchmarks. Bloc doesn’t do this. It accepts anyone who has an interest to alter their trajectory, and eases them into what anyone initiated knows is a challenging skill to learn and master.” –Brandon, 5 stars

“When I looked at my past two months, I just can’t believe how much I have learned at Bloc. Before I started the course, I did not know anything about Rails. Now I have 7 complete projects on my portfolio. It took just two months. Incredible.” –Anonymous, 5 stars

Can you point me towards students who blogged about their Bloc journey?

One of the best ways to get a feel for what the student experience will be like is to read Bloc reviews from students who blogged about their journey. Here are a few blogs to check out:

More Bloc Reviews

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.

Hack the Planet!

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Bloc Alumni Spotlight: From English Lit Professor to Technical Content Creator at Compose

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Abdullah Alger, Full Stack alum, recently landed a job as a Technical Content Creator at Compose – a company under IBM. Previous to Bloc, Abdullah was a Medieval English Lit Professor. We asked Abdullah a few questions about his Bloc experience.

Bloc: What were you doing before Bloc?
Abdullah: I was a professor of medieval English literature.
Bloc: Why did you end up taking Bloc?
Abdullah: I was interested in web development since the late 90s. I knew HTML and CSS and made websites for fun. In 2014, I decided to try to learn a programming language because I was interested writing programs. I didn’t know how to do it, or where to start. I also thought that I might want to do it as a career if I liked it, or incorporate a new skill in order to branch out of my field and into digital humanities. I looked at other bootcamps on the internet, but I had a full-time job and could not commit to spending three months away from a job. Therefore, Bloc was perfect for me because it provides mentorship as well as a flexible bootcamp to learn how to become a software engineer. For me, the mentorship was a key factor to enroll because I could have some guidance and accountability.
Bloc: How did taking Bloc change your life?
Abdullah: While my job is not 100% in software development, it uses my former skills of writing and my new passion software development. I will be able to write code, use cloud-based technology and databases, and tell other developers how to gain the benefits of the technology. It is a step in the right direction for me since I am now working in the technology industry. At the same time, I work for a great company with a long history of developing new technologies. Since I work at IBM, they sky is just the beginning of my journey and I hope to gain the skills in order to become an expert in my new career, and keep moving forward!
Bloc: Which project are you most proud of?
Abdullah: http://rubyplex.com

 


At Bloc, we’re driven to help individuals change their lives by transitioning into careers they’re passionate about. We offer mentor-led online programs comparable to in-person bootcamps. To check out the programs we offer, go here.

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Bloc Alumni Spotlight: Patricia Ehrhardt

Patricia

Patricia Ehrhardt recently accepted a role at ePublishing as a Junior Ruby Developer. While she had previous experience programming, it wasn’t enough to get her into a full-time developer role. After attending Bloc, Patricia had the hard skills she needed to transition careers. We asked her a few questions about why she enrolled in Bloc and how this decision has impacted her career:

Bloc: What were you doing before Bloc?
Patricia: Freelance WordPress and legacy code work.
Bloc: Why did you end up taking Bloc?
Patricia: I reached a plateau in self taught CS and wanted to learn more. Also at the time I wanted a job at the Googles and Facebooks and Twitters of the world, now I want to SELL my software to those companies, not work there!
Bloc: How did taking Bloc change your life?
Patricia: There is not enough room here to state it all, but in a nutshell, it provided the one on one mentorship that I so desperately needed to get me over the hump of learning online and solo. Also, it provided a platform to work on real live projects and feature my skills to add to my GitHub and ultimately my resume.
Bloc: Which Bloc project are you most proud of?
Patricia: Here’s the link!

 

At Bloc, we’re driven to help individuals change their lives by transitioning into careers they’re passionate about. We offer mentor-led online programs comparable to in-person bootcamps. To check out the programs we offer, go here.

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iOS Grad Builds App for ESL Learners

According to CAELA–Center for Adult English Language Acquisition–there were over 2.5 million adults enrolled in ESL courses at federally funded learning programs in the 2004-2005 school year in the US ¹. Note: this astounding number excluded all children and adults that were learning English as a second language outside a federally funded learning program.

Now, let’s discuss the younger US population. The National Center for Education Statistics found that in the 2012-2013 school year, over 4.3 million students enrolled in public schools across the nation had participated in ESL programs ².

By 2014, the total of immigrants in the United States reached over 42.4 million – that’s over 13% of the entire population ³. As the number of immigrants steadily increases in the US, so does the need for ESL support. Learning, knowing, and confidently speaking English can drastically help facilitate professional and personal growth for these individuals. It’s not a new discovery: your command on English can dictate your success in this country.

None of this comes as news to Luis Garcia, a Bloc iOS grad that created an app to further help those learning English as a second language. His app Inflect, which is available in the App Store, helps users correctly pronounce common and uncommon English words. As a former ESL student, Inflect is profound. It’s usefulness is extraordinary.

After a conversation with Luis, I asked him to write about his iOS journey, from enrolling in Bloc to submitting his app to the App Store. Here’s what Luis had to say:

LuisGarcia

“For the past year, I have been working as a freelance iOS developer in the rapidly-expanding southern tech hub known as Austin, Texas. After completing the intensive iOS Bloc program, I started attending meetups around the city and engaging in discussion with other developers, designers and entrepreneurs. This engagement with the local tech community proved to be both greatly informative and was essential to me securing consistent development work. I had the good fortune to meet the owner of a local development shop, and after demoing the apps I had created during my time at Bloc, especially my final project, I had an offer to do some contract work. It sounds so simple upon reflection, but I know just how much effort and long hours of studying and programming was required on my part to become familiar with the iOS SDK and to get through the intensive iOS Bloc course.

If I had to choose a few words to describe what my experience as a freelancer has been like, I’d choose fast-paced, unexpected, and dynamic. What I have realized is that being a freelance developer requires you to be highly adaptable and willing to learn whatever necessary in order to complete a project on time. Becoming familiar and comfortable with the underlying concepts of programming is crucial, because once you have this under your belt, you can begin to apply this type of knowledge to a variety of programming languages.

I studied iOS app development and have had a good share of work for Apple devices, but I have also had to work on cross-platform apps (Cordova), websites, databases and even a couple of Android apps! I do not look upon this as stressful, but rather as a series of great opportunities for expanding my skill set. Developing for iOS is definitely still my favorite of them all, which reminds me…

Before starting Bloc last year I lived in Korea for a few years and worked as an assistant English professor at a university. It was here that I began to see that I could use my experience as an instructor to develop teaching tools aimed at solving certain issues, so I decided it was a good place to begin teaching myself iOS development. I started by looking through tutorials, reading articles online and making simple apps to practice new concepts. The first app I wanted to create was beyond my reach, so a friend and I decided to hire a developer to make the app. This was a great introduction to the app development process and everything extraneous to the actual coding. Organizing information, providing a logical flow for the app, considering and making decisions about UX and the UI, and learning about the App Store itself and how apps are distributed were all invaluable lessons which only made me more interested in developing for the iPhone. The app was released, I managed to get my hands on the source code, and I immediately began picking it apart and seeing how a fully functioning somewhat complex app was put together. I immediately began work on a slightly simpler app which I eventually completed and successfully released on the App Store.

I decided to join Bloc because I wanted to build my confidence as a developer and have the opportunity to speak with a professional about the quality of my code and important points that can’t be taught in a book or simple tutorial. Bloc provided me with this and the exposure to real-world work scenarios which made transitioning into contract work that much easier.

This brings me to the present day and current projects. In addition to contract work, I have continued to write apps of my own and for a concurrently running project a friend and I started with the first ESL app we released. The partnership is called Oi Apps (www.oiapps.com) and we have released three apps to date, the latest of them on May 26, 2016. The title of the most recently released app is ‘Inflect’. It is an app focused on providing a simple and intuitive method for helping ESL students improve their pronunciation.

Inflect

We took advantage of the self-facing camera by using it as an input which allows students to compare their mouth movements to that of a pre-recorded native instructor (see image above). By doing this, we effectively put a personal instructor in the hands of every person who downloads the app. It allows students to see any mistakes and correct them all in the comfort of their home with nothing more than their iPhone. We really believe that this is an effective tool for improving pronunciation and cannot wait for students to benefit from it.

Bloc was undoubtedly a great contributor to me successfully changing careers and finding happiness in my work.

All information and links to apps can be found here: www.oiapps.com and on my personal site  at: http://iamluisg.github.io.”


¹ CAELA
² NCES
³ MPI

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How One Bloc Alum is Building Robots for NASA’s Mission to Mars

Bloc alum Katelyn Hertel recently started a new job as a Q&A Engineer at Fastly. Before even enrolling in Bloc, Katelyn knew she wanted to work at Fastly and did everything she could to achieve this goal. Katelyn, like so many Bloc alumni, had the grit and focus needed to reach success.

We asked her a few questions about getting hired at Fastly, switching careers with Bloc, and the NASA Hackathon project she’s been working on.

Katelyn Hertel

Bloc: What were you doing before Bloc?

Katelyn: I was an undergrad at Seton Hall studying History and Classical Studies.

Bloc: Why did you end up enrolling in Bloc?

Katelyn: I knew I wanted to be a programmer, and I knew I wanted to work at Fastly. I had been going to every single one of the meetups they were at before I even started Bloc, to the point where I felt comfortable introducing myself to the employees and just making presence known. After building a solid connection with them, I started to look into bootcamps to gain the skills I needed. I really didn’t want to go to a classroom every single day (I hate classroom settings). Bloc was a great alternative and seemed perfect. Actually, my current boss’ boss told me about Bloc and told me it was what I needed to do in order to get a job at Fastly.

Bloc: So, you got the job. Do you love it? Tell us more about Fastly!

Katelyn: Fastly is a CDN, or content delivery network. Essentially on a site like Buzzfeed, when you load the website on your computer, we help deliver that content to your screen. Here is what sets Fastly apart from other CDN’s, and here’s a video with all of my bosses talking about Fastly. I love being a CSE (Customer Support Engineer) even though I am the only one in the NYC office right now!

Although I just started, I love it. Being a Customer Support Engineer, I’m exposed to every aspect of the company… that’s the benefit of the job. In 6 to 8 months, I’ll have my first review. If I’m interested in growing or moving into another role, I’ll have that opportunity. They also allow me to work on side projects, which has already been rewarding. I’ll be giving a tech talk to the Fastly employees next month on a Nasa project I’m working on.

Bloc: NASA Hackathon project?!

Katelyn: Yeah! I competed in the NASA Space Apps Challenge in Brooklyn, NY. and for our project, we built robots for NASA to send to Mars. We got second place internationally!! If we build a prototype that works, NASA will actually move forward with the robots. It’s crazy.

Bloc: How did you get involved in the hackathon? Was that your first one ever?
Katelyn: Yes, this was my first hackathon which makes winning all the more special. I had started going to meetups in NYC as suggested by my mentor, Brittany Martin. I was at a Women Who Code event where they encouraged us to attend hackathons. I did a search and I saw NASA was sponsoring and immediately signed up. You know how everyone has that one dream job that they will never have? Mine is to be an astronaut, so coding and building a project for NASA is the next best thing!

Bloc: What’s your role on the hackathon team? What technical skills are you employing?
Katelyn: So I was super nervous going into the hackathon. I felt underqualified and thought I’d just end up watching and learning from afar. I found my team but we didn’t really know what we were going to do. On our team we had a mechanical engineer, an origami artist/coder, and 3 computer coders (myself included).

Eventually when the details of our project became more clear I brought most of the Mars knowledge to the table. I’m secretly a huge space nerd. I was also in charge of documentation, testing, and social media presence. I had the goal of getting NASA’s attention before judging started, and I was successful. I had NASA executives all over the country interested in what our team was producing and I think this is a large part of why we won. There wasn’t much coding done during the actual hackathon, but that will be coming soon.

Bloc: What’s the next step with the Nasa project?
Katelyn: Because we came in second internationally NASA won’t fund the prototype. However, we have been invited to the Mars testing facility in Houston to test our prototype once it’s built. If it works successfully there, there is a good possibility NASA will build our robots and send them to Mars. So, right now we are looking for sponsors. We need about $10,000 to 3D scan and print our prototype plus purchase all the electronics that would go inside. From there we would start the actual coding of the robot and then bring it to Houston!

Bloc: What do the robots do? Any videos or website for the project out there where I can learn more?
Katelyn: Our robots are self-propelling origami robots that would create a mesh network on the surface of Mars. As of right now, there are 13 rovers on Mars but only 2 are active. Many of them failed because they wandered too far from their base and lost connection with Earth. Our robots would create a network across the planet so that a rover could never get too far from their base. Our robots will also have location tracking technology, weather tracking capabilities. If a bad dust storm is approaching our robots would alert the rovers so that they could power down properly and not risk getting their solar panels covered in dust which would put them out of order.

This is our project submission page on the NASA site
Here is the Tumblr I created and kept up after the competition ended
Here is our prototype working in the wind at the hackathon
Here’s us in action testing and documenting our progress and our Wireless Orientation Module in action

Bloc: That’s incredible. How did taking Bloc change your life?

Katelyn: I wouldn’t have gotten a job without Bloc. There’s so much room to grow within this company. Bloc made it all possible.

 

 


At Bloc, we’ve helped thousands of students change their lives and switch careers. We offer 100% online, mentor-led programs comparable to in-person bootcamps, and the results speak for themselves. Read alumni reviews of Bloc here.  #hacktheplanet

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How a High School English Teacher Became a Developer at IBM

Zachary Melancon, a Full Stack Track student at Bloc, recently accepted a role at IBM as an Application Development Specialist. Landing a job at such a great company without having any prior programming experience is remarkable, and we wanted to ask Zach a few questions about how this high school teacher became a developer, and what others can learn from his journey. Below, Zach answers a few questions about his Bloc experience.

Zachary Melancon

Bloc: What were you doing before Bloc?

Zachary: “Before and during Bloc, I was an English teacher. I always enjoyed reading and creating works of fiction so, in college, I majored in English with a concentration in writing. Therefore, when I graduated, teaching English seemed like an occupation in which I could excel. However, not only is it hard to support a family with a teacher’s salary, but there is also very little upward mobility. In September 2015, my wife and I had our son, and I realized that I would have to change professions in order to be able to support them. Luckily for me, I discovered web development, which I found to be as creatively stimulating as writing had been to me previously.”

Bloc: Why did you end up taking Bloc?

Zachary: “As stated in the answer above, I found programming and web development to be interesting, and I connected with the creative aspect of it as well as the problem solving that it required. At the same time, I knew I would need to change my profession. One day, by coincidence, I was listening to NPR during a discussion they had about coding boot camps. At the time, I thought I would have to somehow find time to go back to school for two years or more, and maintain my job so that my family had a source of income while I was studying. After listening to that segment on NPR, I researched more online about coding boot camps, and found Bloc. With Bloc, I could not only keep my job, but I would also be provided with great instructional material and a mentor to help guide me through the material. Of all the coding boot camps I searched, Bloc was definitely the best choice.”

Bloc: How would you review Bloc? How did it change your life?

Zachary: “Almost immediately upon completing the course work on Bloc, I was able to get a job at IBM. As a teacher, though teaching has other rewards, it was hard for me to see my family ever getting to a point where we were financially comfortable. Now, knowing that, because of Bloc, I will be working for one of the biggest tech companies on the planet, I know that my family will be financially secure, and I know that I will be able grow in an industry that excites me.”


At Bloc, we’re driven to help individuals change their lives by transitioning into careers they’re passionate about. We offer mentor-led online programs comparable to in-person bootcamps. To check out the programs we offer, go here. If you’d like to read more about students’ experiences attending Bloc, this is the best place to find Bloc reviews.

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