Epicodus Interns Publish Data Science Tutorial

Epicodus Interns Publish Data Science Tutorial

Our friends at Sustainabilist hosted two interns from Epicodus:

Russell Hofvendahl and David Lewis met as Epicodus students and bonded over their love of data and interest in using technology to help solve society's great environmental challenges. As if by fate, the two met Jason Trager, the Managing Partner of Sustainabilist, at a meet up in Portland. They were drawn to Jason's work applying data science to improve efficiency and reduce carbon impacts for businesses across the U.S. When Jason offered the opportunity for David and Russell to explore the Chicago Food Inspection dataset using Python, the two jumped at the idea and their Epicodus internship was born. Applying their strong coding foundations from Epicodus, Russell and David took on learning a brand new language and framework to complete this tutorial on data cleaning and preliminary analysis. Their resulting publication allows users to make significant new insights into food safety processes and improve and standardize processes for cleaning and processing large datasets.

Read Russell and David’s publication on the Sustainabilist blog.

Interview with Jacob Johnston of Flight

Interview with Jacob Johnston of Flight

Jacob Johnston is the founder of Flight, a company that has hired several Epicodus graduates. Here he shares his experience in software development and advice for new developers.

What does Flight do?

We help early-stage entrepreneurs and innovators bring their apps to market. Our primary offerings are technical guidance (pre-CTO kind of stuff), software engineering, app development, and team building. We also provide other startup-related services, such as branding and identity workshops, graphic design, and market research.

What do software developers do at Flight?

The majority of what we do is greenfield work, which is always more exciting than maintenance. Software developers may do anything from designing an elegant algorithm to calculate the most useful place for text in a randomly shaped polygon, to creating an intuitive user experience by implementing hover effects and animations that guide users, to writing back-end services, to simply styling up some HTML. Our goal is always to find people who love what they do and find work for them that they will love doing. You get much better code out of excited developers.

What do you look for when hiring junior-level software developers?

The main three things I consider are grit, self-guidance, and enthusiasm. By grit I mean that they have the requisite sticktoitiveness to hammer up against a confusing problem and not give up or beat themselves up or complain that their own brain is just not good enough. By self-guidance I mean that they can get a big-picture understanding of our goals and know what to do next when they finish something. I don't like to watch over people's shoulders and keep them on task. I want developers, designers, and engineers who will actively pursue the best activities to align with company goals even with limited guidance. I probably don't need to explain enthusiasm. I only want to work with developers who want to work. Dragging your feet about coding is a red flag, but so is just failing to show your excitement about difficult challenges.

Why does Flight hire Epicodus graduates?

I have a bias towards self-learners as opposed to university computer science types. I taught myself software engineering and I'm always eagerly exploring new tools and technologies. I find that a lot of more experienced developers, especially those with a computer science background, tend to get easily stuck in their ways. That just doesn't cut it in the modern world of software, especially JavaScript and web development. If you're not keeping up with trends and best practices and useful libraries you'll fall behind. I don't want to hear about how much you like version 1.x of a platform and why we should never upgrade because the new one is just so icky and different. I've also just had really great experiences with Epicodus grads. Those who make the cut tend to really excel.

What advice do you have for Epicodus graduates interested in working at a company like Flight?

I'd suggest keeping busy and finding lots of interesting projects of your own to work on. That could mean getting involved in open source projects, asking your friends for ideas, or just implementing a project you kept thinking about. Analysis paralysis is a real danger. Don't get started then tell yourself "oh no, I am in way over my head, I need to go back to the books". Continuing to study new materials is crucial, but I've seen too many developers stop cold when they realize they don't know everything, and start reading tutorials instead of writing code. Some companies will hire you based on a strong resume and a good interview. Book-learning might help you answer standard coding interview questions. That doesn’t cut it with Flight. The only way you'll get in the door is to show me code you actually wrote yourself, and explain what you did, how, and why. No whiteboard. No technical interview questions. I just want to see your code and hear how you talk about it. I'm sure more employers will follow suit with time.

Alum Maigen Thomas's Advice

Alum Maigen Thomas's Advice

Maigen attended Epicodus in 2014, went on to be a developer, and then changed careers again into a career coach for women in tech. Below, she shares her story and advice.

What were you doing before Epicodus?

Before Epicodus, I was a flight attendant for six years and a nanny in Canada for three years before that. I had never programmed anything more complicated than a microwave before I applied to Epicodus!

Why did you want to get into coding?

I was going through a massive life shift in the months before Epicodus even showed up on my radar. I didn’t want to be a flight attendant anymore, but I had no idea what I wanted to do - or could do. Going back to school didn’t feel like an option - I had already failed out twice and the staggering amount of debt I would accumulate seemed insurmountable. My partner at the time was a network engineer, and he suggested that I consider a coding bootcamp. I did some research and felt like Epicodus's values aligned with mine. But even then, I didn’t really have the confidence that I was smart enough to be a developer.

What did you find valuable from your Epicodus education?

The time I spent on my education at Epicodus was powerfully transformative for me! At the top-most level, I learned how to learn. My cohort was formed around learning JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. But it wasn’t just a superficial understanding of one particular programming language - it was so much more, and it set me up for success in future work. In the Epicodus curriculum, I learned how to effectively break down problems and create solutions for them. Outside the curriculum, I learned to have more confidence in the years I had spent using "soft skills" and why those would make me successful in my future jobs.

What are you doing for work now, and what was the transition from Epicodus like?

Coming out of Epicodus, I (like everyone else, I suppose) was nervous about how I could translate what I learned into working a real job as a developer. As a direct result of my Epicodus education, I absolutely crushed my first interview and got hired as an intern, and then a front-end developer for an awesome startup here in Portland, OR, which has since been acquired and moved to New York. The whole time I was a developer, I was also acting as a mentor for other women in tech. I recognized that the fears and insecurities I had as a student and a junior developer were shared by every woman I met in tech. It became my passion to support them and to help them find their next level of success. When my company got bought and the Portland office was closed, I took it as a sign from the universe that it was time to focus on helping women in tech full time. I started Empowered Women in Tech and I now help women new to tech find greater success in their first year and beyond.

What advice do you have for future students?

1. Show up. Be there every day, and be willing to keep trying. This is true for Epicodus students and future employees alike. Not showing up deprives you of the opportunity for learning, and deprives your fellow students in the cohort of the magic that only you can bring!

2. Don’t take it personally when you hit a block. It might feel like a major problem, but when you get past it, you’ll laugh (later) about how easy that was in comparison to the project you’re working on next. Focus your attention on how great it feels to find a solution, and don't get distracted, derailed or dragged down by how hard it feels.

3. Ask for what you need, especially if you need help. So many people get caught up in trying to do it all themselves, or feeling like success is a competition. Be okay with needing someone else’s guidance at times and be willing to give yours, as well.

We're hiring for employer outreach!

We're hiring for employer outreach!

Update: this position has been filled.

This position will be based in Seattle, but we are open to Portland applicants who want to train up in Portland and then move to Seattle in 1-2 months.

Who we are: Epicodus is a vocational school for people who want to become programmers. We train our students in high-demand programming skills, and then help them find work with software companies. Our mission is to help people get better jobs, and many of our students were formerly unemployed or working for low wages.

What it's like working here: We have 8 employees in Portland and are growing to 3 in Seattle. Work-life balance is a big deal: we work 35 hour weeks and take about 30 days paid time off yearly (and we actually take them). Collaboration is also a big deal, and so we mostly work at the same place (downtown) at the same time (9am-5pm). That said, we're also flexible, and shifting around hours a bit here and there is common: most of our employees work short days from home on Fridays. We work on 27" iMacs and adjustable sit-stand desks. With the meaningful work we do, the strong support we give each other, and the healthy work-life balance, many of our staff say this is one of the best work situations they've had.

Why we're hiring: Epicodus is looking for someone to help us connect our graduates with employers. A major reason for our students' success in finding employment after graduating is that we have staff working full-time to tell employers about what we do, and let them know about our demo days, internship program, and how to hire our students.

About the job: Your job will consist of finding companies who are interested in hiring Epicodus graduates, talking to them about Epicodus, and plugging them into our employment programs (internships, demo days, and direct hiring). To find companies, you'll make phone calls, send emails, network on LinkedIn, and go to events. You'll also organize our internship program and demo days.

The pay: This position starts at $42,000 per year. Every year, you'll receive a $6,000 raise, until you reach $66,000. We offer medical and dental benefits, and a 401(k) (without employer matching).

Qualifications: We're looking for someone who is above all else good at communicating, specifically writing emails, talking on the phone, and meeting in person. No previous experience is required, although if you have experience in sales or related work you'll likely have naturally developed these skills. 

The application: Send an email to michael@epicodus.com explaining why you'd be good at this job. Much of what you'll be doing in this position is emailing companies to tell them why they should consider hiring Epicodus graduates, so an email about why we should consider hiring you will be a good indicator of your potential. Try not to "oversell" yourself - let your email tell your story of how you'd be a good fit for the position by giving examples of your experiences (personal and professional) that have prepared you for this job. Don't include a resume - we're more interested in your ability to write an email that tells your story, than your ability to write a resume that lists your experience.

Evaluation: When we review your application, we'll be looking for these things:

* A strong opening that gives a quick reason why you're a good fit for the position
* Examples from past work or other experience that show why you'll be good at this job
* Brevity (can you write an email that is concise enough for a busy employer to read through?)
* Proper spelling and grammar

Candidates who have a strong email application will be given a phone interview to evaluate your phone skills, and then an in-person interview to evaluate your in-person communication skills.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Austin from Daimler Trucks Talk About Coding and Epicodus

Austin from Daimler Trucks Talk About Coding and Epicodus

Austin Kincaid is an Epicodus alum who works at Daimler Trucks North America. He was kind enough to do an interview and share his experience and some advice.

What does Daimler do?

I work for Daimler Trucks North America, which falls under the Daimler umbrella. Daimler builds vehicles, and our branch builds trucks! Semi-trucks to be precise.

What do software developers do at Daimler?

I work in IT, which lives to help the rest of the company solve their software needs. We build any kind of software that can't already be purchased off the shelf. This includes building services that stitch together legacy software in a new way or completely new software for an emerging venture, like autonomous driving.

What do you look for when hiring junior-level software developers?

This is a complex question full of caveats, all of which relate to the next question as well. Daimler is a gigantic and old company, change comes a little slowly here. When I joined in 2016 only two teams were "agile", one of which only in name. I joined the truly agile team. This means one team of maybe fifty was not following waterfall methodology.

The team I joined was built by a collection of smart people who didn't care for waterfall or really asking permission for radical changes to reach their goals. The team was comprised of people who had done scrum in the past and they would not compromise or go back to anything else. This team saw the value in hiring a junior developer.

Here's the real answer to why my team likes junior-level developers like the ones from Epicodus: general competency. If a green developer can generally understand how to use Git, a text editor, and any programming logic, they have an edge over other candidates. I was surprised to hear that that list of "likes" is often left unfulfilled by some applying CS grads, including those with masters degrees. We want people that can learn quickly.

Why does Daimler hire Epicodus graduates?

Epicodus grads are motivated individuals, many of whom have made great shifts in their lives transition careers. These same people just went through a program that sets the foundation for good development practices by emphasizing pair-programming, modern tools, and taking on challenges without fear. Epicodus graduates are smart, capable, communicative, and open-minded, and these are unusual characteristics to find. After the first Epicodus hire worked out, my team was hooked.

What advice do you have for Epicodus graduates interested in working at Daimler?

For our team, attention to detail counts for a lot. We want to see you follow our code-challenge instructions, format your code consistently, name your methods well, and write comments where naming fails.

A full Git history is also very important. Our team reviews commits very closely in our application process. What we are not looking for is a perfect Git history: we want an honest history with revisions. Don't hide your thought process behind an artificial history, as we do not view changes negatively - quite the opposite actually. Also, throw your "show" GitHub account out if you have one, as we can usually find the real ones. I could go on about this but just know, any funny business found in the history is an almost certain disqualifier and you're best off taking it easy and being real.

Thanks so much to Austin for participating in this interview!


Take 5 Weeks of Epicodus Free!

Take 5 Weeks of Epicodus Free!

We're trying something new: just for our full-time Portland track starting July 30th, students can take the first 5 weeks of Epicodus's 27-week program for free. 

We know deciding to enroll in code school is a big decision. So, we want to make it easier to figure out if Epicodus is right for you. Taking the first 5 weeksof our program for free will give you a chance to experience our program firsthand without any risk. At the end of the fourth week, if you've passed all your assessments, complied with our attendance policy, and followed our code of conduct, we'll invite you to continue with the remainder of our program. 

To ensure you're committed to attending, we ask for a $100 deposit to hold your spot. This deposit is fully refundable so long as you come to the first day of class. If you continue with the full-length program, you can apply your deposit to your tuition.

Interested in taking 5 weeks of Epicodus for free? Sign up for our July 30 classes here. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so sign up soon. This is a pilot program that we may or may not repeat at later dates or at our Seattle campus.

Guest Post: How Your Reviews Can Help Future Programmers

Guest Post: How Your Reviews Can Help Future Programmers

This post was written by Erica Freedman, Content and Client Services Specialist at SwitchUp.

Programming is a continuously evolving industry. From university programs to week-long cohorts, it can be difficult to decide where to start. Much like the “Best Coffee in All of America” sign in your local diner’s window, every boot camp or school website tells you they are the best in the game. Based on SwitchUp’s research, “there are currently over 120 in-person bootcamps and hundreds of part-time and online programs available worldwide.” While choice can be good, it can also be daunting.

How can you be sure you’re picking the right program?

One way is through the Council in Results Reporting (CIRR) initiative that Epicodus is a part of. CIRR provides quantitative data on graduation rates and employment outcomes, so that you can trust that the school you're choosing has the outcomes you expect.

But numbers only give part of the story. Another important approach is using reviews and ratings from graduates to eliminate the less-than-satisfactory programs saturating the market. Detailed reviews take students beyond marketing materials or publicity, and provide valuable first-hand experience. On-the-ground perspectives are often a deciding factor when students are looking to change careers.

If you are a bootcamp grad (or soon-to-be grad), your perspective can help “pay it forward” to the next cohort of students, and give your school helpful feedback as well. Think back to when you were trying to find the best program possible and write a review from that perspective. What do you wish you had seen or heard before entering a bootcamp?

We suggest the following tips to write a review that is valuable to future students.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

Even if your bootcamp was the most perfect experience of your life, there is always room for improvement. Do researching students a favor and cover the positive aspects of your program experience while balancing this out with constructive criticism. This feedback not only helps those looking to join the school, but also the school itself.

SwitchUp has found that prospective students are most interested in the quality of the curriculum, teaching staff, and job support, so be sure to mention your thoughts on these areas. If your school has multiple campuses then you’ll want to list the campus you attended, as these variables change from campus to campus.

Talk About Your Complete Experience: Before, During, and After The Bootcamp

Have you ever seen a review that says, “It was great!” or “I hated it.”? Although these are technically reviews, neither are helpful to prospective students. What made the bootcamp great? Was it the teachers? The length of the courses? The location of the campus? There are so many variables to consider when thinking about the application process straight through to a job offer.

As you write a review, include how the program helped you to become immersed in the world of Programming as well as how it helped you succeed after graduation. For example: Did the pre-work give you a useful introduction to the Programming industry? Did career services help you ace an interview with your dream company? The complete picture will show future bootcampers how the program can help them both learn to code and meet their career goals.

Tell Your Story

SwitchUp has interviewed a wide range of bootcamp students. What is your story? Maybe you embarked on a career change into Programming from a completely different background. Or maybe you took a semester off from college to simply gain skills at a bootcamp. Whatever the case may be, your path will show other students what’s possible. This perspective is especially helpful if you do not have a programming, coding or computer science background, since many bootcamp students come from different fields. Your story will show future students that as long as they are committed, they too can switch to tech career.

If you are interested in writing a review of Epicodus, check out the SwitchUp reviews page here. Plus, you will automatically be entered to win one of five $100 Amazon gift cards or one $500 Amazon gift card grand-prize from SwitchUp once you submit a verified review. This sweepstakes ends in March, so get going!

Online Intro to Programming Class

Online Intro to Programming Class

I'm excited to share that Epicodus is offering its Intro to Programming class in an online format for the first time, starting January 2, 2018.

Many people in Portland have taken Intro to Programming with us as a part-time evening course so they can decide if Epicodus is a good fit for them. Now, if you don't live in Portland, we've got a way for you to experience Epicodus remotely before you commit to our full-time program. And you're of course welcome to take the class even if you have no intention of continuing in-person.

While there will be some differences from our classroom experience, we'll be keeping many of the same elements that we've found work well. We'll have a set schedule, Tu/W/Th 5:30-7:30 Pacific. We'll use the same battle-tested curriculum we've developed over the last five years of our in-person classes, so you can expect the same high-quality education Epicodus is known for. And we'll approximate the classroom experience with a teacher available during class hours, and a rotating peer "buddy" for you to work with on your exercises.

If you're interested in learning more and signing up, click here!

Not All Outcomes Claims Are Created Equal

Not All Outcomes Claims Are Created Equal

If you're a prospective student considering attending Epicodus, you might be wondering why we don't claim 99% placement rates like some other schools. We believe that such claims don't give you the information you need to make an informed decision, because such schools are manipulating their numbers to increase their placement percentage. Here's how they are doing it:

  1. They remove students who don't meet their qualifications of "job-seeking" by participating in employment services. While this may seem reasonable, in reality, very often the students who feel least-prepared by their schools are most likely not to participate in these programs.
  2. They remove students did not respond during their data collecting process. Although this happens, removing these students means these schools can inflate their numbers by not following up with students whom they think might not have done well in their job search.
  3. They use a broad definition of "job" to increase the number of students they can report as employed. For example, they lump part-time or contract positions in with full-time numbers. While there's nothing wrong with non-permanent positions as they are often a stepping stone, it's misleading not to break out these numbers. 
  4. They don't have a time limit on their data collection. So if a student finds a job two years after graduating, they're included in the same percentage as a student who finds a job within a month.

Some of these schools claim to be "transparent" because they disclose these practices in fine print on long PDF documents you can download from their websites, and sometimes even because an auditor reviewed their data for accuracy. But as a prospective student, these numbers don't actually tell you what kind of success you can expect from enrolling in their school. You shouldn't take those percentages at face value.

Last year, Epicodus helped found the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). CIRR is a standard developed by a large group of coding schools who believe in giving prospective students the information they need to make informed decisions. In contrast to the practices described above, CIRR members like Epicodus follow these higher standards:

  • We report on every student who enrolls, even those who don't graduate.
  • We don't remove any students from our calculations. We even disclose the percent of graduates we couldn't contact. 
  • We differentiate among different types of jobs, including full-time, internship, and part-time.
  • We report outcomes at 90 and 180 days after graduation.

As a potential student, you can trust that our numbers won't mislead you as you decide if attending is the right choice for you.

Your Jobs Are Safe: Rebutting the Jobless Future Freakout

Your Jobs Are Safe: Rebutting the Jobless Future Freakout

I (Epicodus's founder, Michael) am going to give a talk at Epicodus's Portland office on Tuesday, September 19, from 6-7pm called "Your Jobs Are Safe: Rebutting the Jobless Future Freakout". I've heard and read a lot of concern in the tech industry and more broadly that technology and automation threaten to leave our world with very few jobs and massive inequality. I'll explore the history of massive technology shifts and their impacts on jobs, the current situation of automation and people-replacement, and what the future might hold. I hope you can make it!