October 21, 2016
If you’ve been following along on my journey thus far, at this point, I’ve been accepted to and received various scholarship amounts from Fullstack Academy, Galvanize, and Viking Code School. Here’s how I made the decision between those three.
I actually ruled Galvanize out pretty early on — before I had even applied to Fullstack and Viking, in fact. My initial reservations centered around the tight turnaround times for when I was notified of my admission and scholarship and the beginning of the cohort. I was accepted on a Thursday, and the class was supposed to start on the following Monday. However, as I got to know Galvanize and other programs more, I realized the program just wasn’t the best fit I knew I could find.
I was able to speak to a current student, who also graciously gave me a tour of campus after hours. I asked her, “If you could change one thing about the program, what it would it be?” and her response was that she wished she could get more feedback on her work. (As a small tangent, that’s my favorite question to ask anyone of anything I’m considering — the answer can reveal a lot!) One of the reasons I chose to pursue a bootcamp was so that I could have frequent interaction with and feedback from people who know what they’re doing, so that wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to hear.
I initially really liked that Galvanize’s program is at a slightly less intense pace and timeline than a lot of other bootcamps, and it has room for you to actually have a life. As I continued my bootcamp search, however, I found that I wanted the intensity and the rigor and the “immersive-ness” that accompanies the 6-days-a-week-10-or-12-or-I’ve-lost-count-hours-per-day schedule. This wasn’t necessarily anything against Galvanize’s program; I just realized that I wanted something different.
And with that, the decision came down to either Fullstack or Viking.
Fullstack & Viking: The Similarities
On an overall level, Fullstack and Viking are very similar in many ways.
- They’re both online. Viking’s only option is online, and this is Fullstack’s first online cohort.
- They’re both known for being fairly intense programs — they expect at least 60 hours of work per week from their students, although it’s distributed slightly differently (I’ll get to that in a bit).
- The program and content itself. Both seemed to have easy and frequent access to and contact with instructors and mentors, a copious amount of pair programming and group work, a project-based curriculum that would cover the entirety of full-stack development, in-depth work with algorithms and data structures, and strong job application and placement support.
Fullstack & Viking: The Tangible Differences
- The schedule. Viking’s schedule is Monday through Friday, from approximately 10am to at least 8 or 9pm in my time zone. Fullstack’s schedule is Monday through Saturday, from approximately 9am to 5:30pm in my time zone. Fullstack’s schedule meant that I could still have a couple of hours in the evening to attend Meetups in my area, catch up on some work or more challenging material, or start prepping for the next day, without having to stay up late. (Learning is important, but so is sleep!)
- Fullstack is setting up a Virtual Reality Lab, exclusively for Remote Immersive students. I’ll be honest, this is actually one of the things that drew me to Fullstack in the first place. I don’t have much experience with VR, but I definitely want to learn more about it and be able to experience it! I’m also very interested in the intersection between technology and education, so I was really excited about this part of the program.
- The cost. Viking does have a deferred tuition model and I received a full scholarship from an outside organization, which meant that I would pay nothing to attend. While I didn’t receive a full scholarship from Fullstack, I received enough that cost became a very small factor in my decision. (Thanks, Fullstack! If you’re curious, you can read more about the $500,000 fund they’ve set aside for the first few cohorts of their Remote Immersive program.)
The Intangibles & the Final Decision
For me, it came down to one big question: Where could I see myself thriving more?
- The interview and the learning experience. Like I mentioned in the last post, I absolutely loved my Fullstack interview, and was very frustrated by my Viking interview. Contrary to the latter, I felt like I learned a fair bit in my Fullstack interview, and the fellow that interviewed me was enormously helpful and instrumental in that. I was encouraged to look at problems in a different way.
- The community. Fullstack believes heavily in a “no asshole rule,” which is based upon the book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. Having previously worked with a manager that was the epitome of a “workplace asshole,” I loved that they went out of their way to ensure that everyone they admitted and hired was respectful, friendly, and open.
- The instructors. Having at least some industry experience within the instructing team was also important to me. All of Viking’s instructors seemed to have come from other bootcamps (the founder graduated from App Academy) or from Viking itself, and there seemed to be little industry experience among them. Some of Fullstack’s instructors are former students who have moved up through the ranks and proven the ability to both teach and code, and some (including the co-founders!) worked in the industry for some time before joining Fullstack. Whichever route they took, they had to have demonstrated both the ability to teach and the ability to code and contribute to real-life projects.
- The students. A few Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter searches of Fullstack’s alumni produced some impressive results. The very great majority seemed employed at decent companies and startups, and had relatively active and robust online presences through social media, blogs, and websites. In contrast, it was hard for me to find any substantial information outside of Viking’s website about its graduates, and most of the profiles I found had been abandoned.
- The projects. Fullstack has a showcase of student projects on their website. (It didn’t hurt that two of the final projects were online versions of Pandemic and Settlers of Catan, both games that I love.) I had to hunt down Viking’s students’ projects, and even then, I could only find a Youtube video from the very first cohort a year ago. Although I don’t have enough knowledge yet to evaluate the technical details, Fullstack’s students’ projects just seemed much more polished to me. The fact that students have placed at or won a number of hackathons is also a testament to the skills they gain and the work they’re able to produce.
Though I’d be a part of Fullstack’s Remote Immersive cohort (and therefore a guinea pig of sorts) and Fullstack cost more for me, after I laid all of this out, I knew Fullstack was the right decision. I’m almost finished with the Foundations phase of their curriculum, and that has continually been re-affirmed throughout. I’ve arguably learned more in the past three weeks than I have in the past few months of self-learning combined, and the actual immersive hasn’t even started yet!
Read the other posts in this series: