Flatiron Online Coding Bootcamp Experience

Posted by hcarnes on October 28, 2018

My goal here is to share my experience attending Flatiron’s Online Web Development Program from October 2017 to April 2018. A lot of people ask about this, so here is my long answer.

My answer will cover the following:

  • curriculum
  • mentoring services
  • access to help from technical people
  • career services
  • pricing structure

Curriculum

The greatest value I received was having structured and time-sensitive goals to focus on for six months. The curriculum was structured around teaching Ruby, Sinatra, SQL, Rails, Javascript and React. Building apps based on their curriculum and technical requirements helped me learn to code.

The curriculum is primarily README’s with gifs, old youtube videos of someone teaching the lesson a few years ago, and coding challenges that involve passing specs. At the time I enrolled in the program,their website said it would take 6 months if you work 40 hours a week. I finished in 5 ½ months and work anywhere from 30 to 60 hours each week.

The beginning of the course is thorough and organized, but the further I got into the curriculum, the more bugs and unfinished content I found. As mentioned before, some the of content is youtube videos that was filmed years ago. When I took the course, they were not teaching the most modern HTML, CSS, Rails, or JavaScript. I only realized in this toward the end of the curriculum as I gained more experience. Once you graduate, you also get access to brief CS tutorials and Node tutorials (also out of date).

Mentoring services

I met with a nontechnical mentor online for 30 minutes about once a month. My mentor had a background in social work and was brand new in the role. Our conversations were focused on how the program was going and time management. I imagine they also communicate to the company why people decide to quit or takes breaks from the program. The attrition rate was high. You could see by the number of the pull request for lessons at the beginning of the program. (All the lessons are on Github.)

Access to help from technical people

You can ask technical coaches questions through a chatroom and online screen shares. The coaches are recent graduates of the program and they help you for 20 minutes at a time. The job posting for tech coaches on their website says they are paid $20 an hour. They frequently are not able to help you resolve your problem in 20 minutes and it is common for them to recommend you google the answer or queue up for another 20 minute session.

At the end of each section, you independently build an app that meets their technical specifications. If you need help, you need to sign up for a session with a section lead about a week in advance. The sections leads are also Flatiron graduates, and they were always helpful and enjoyable to interact with. I never received any code review from anyone at Flatiron on any of my code or projects.

Career assistance

Once I got close to graduating, I connected with a career coach for 30 minutes online and met periodically with them to meet Flatiron job hunting requirements. They provided me with a generic resume template to fill out and access to content about job hunting. They gave me a token for 1 free mock 30 minute technical interview that is administered by an external company. I didn’t use their resume template. During the interview, they asked me questions about web development, data structures, and algorithms. Algorithms were not part of the web development program.

Career fair

If you live in NYC area, you can attend one career event hosted by Flatiron. They set up you up with 3 interviews based on their opinion of who they think you should interview with. They don’t share the full list of employers attending the fair. Each employer at the event is meeting with 4-6 other candidates in a 2-hour time block. I was told their business development department would send me job opportunties, but the only job lead they provided me with was a junior curriculum writer at the Flatiron School and also a technical project management contract role that required heavy traveling.

Qualifying job offer

My career coach had a background in general career development/HR and had 1 month of experience in the role at Flatiron. They didn’t have experience in tech recruiting. It became evident throughout our interactions that their job was to ensure I was complying with the contract I signed at the beginning of the program. The contract ensures graduates meet a certain number of action items each week to be considered for the money back job guarantee. From my experience, the career coach’s job was also to build a relationship with me so that I would notify them if I got any type of job offer. Once I got an offer, they advised me to accept it without ever asking questions about the role or the company or advising me to negotiate my salary. Once Flatiron has evidence that you’ve received an offer, the company no longer has to expend resources toward you as the contract ensures any “qualifying” job offer received makes the student no longer eligible for the money back job guarantee.

Pricing structure

When I started the program, they only offered a self-paced option costing $750 per month up to $12,000. Finishing in under 6 months left my final price tag at about $4,000. It was stressful knowing that if I got behind, I would end up paying more. Based on their jobs report, most people take 8-12 months to finish the program. I noticed the website now offers a structured full-time 5 month program that costs $15,000. Considering the weaknesses of the curriculum, staff inexperience, and lack of code review, I think it’s healthy to be wary of this new price tag.

Advice to others considering a coding program

I learned a lot in the program and I’ve continued my commitment to learning and growing as a programmer since I’ve graduated. I’m working as a developer now, and I really enjoy it. If you are thinking about any coding program, I would reach out to a lot of alumni and get a good sampling of their experiences and then decide if you think it would be a good life decision. It feels like new programs pop up each year, and programs are always changing. It’s obviously going to be a lot of hard work no matter how you go about learning to program. Don’t put your job search in the hands of anyone but yourself. I would also recommmend seriously considering the self-teaching route.

TL;DR

The greatest value I found was having a structured curriculum to follow for six months. The curriculum presentation has glaring weaknesses, but the core content is good. I could have found this other places for less money. I changed careers and I’ve had previous experiencing in job hunting, so I didn’t find the career coaching material valuable. I would have benefited more from a career coach who had my best interest in mind, as opposed to someone representing the business interests of Flatiron School.