Experiences with Thinkful and Code Academy
February 11, 2019 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I need a mid-career skills update, with a focus on full stack development. Does Thinkful provide good courses and deliver on its promises? How about Code Academy? It looks like Thinkful provides a lot more structure and costs a lot more. I'm interested in hearing about experiences with both these options and others as well.

I've worked with and managed programmers for many years. The last ten years I have been managing a small specialized software consulting company. I have never programmed professionally, but I'm comfortable doing little bits of coding and I have a good technical grasp of lots of software engineering concepts, algorithms, data structures, etc. However, I have no experience with web development and no experience with modern languages (Javascript, Python, Java, Ruby, etc). I know in principal how a full stack web application is structured, but practically speaking I couldn't set something like that up or understand in detail how it would be structured.

I have been looking for work as a product manager, product owner, or client account manager and after several months I have come up dry. I'm working my network and keeping at it, but at this point I'm thinking it could also be helpful to brush up on my technical skills in a structured way. This could improve my resume and help me speak more knowledgeably when looking for product management / product owner positions. It's also possible that I could transition from product management to software engineering. At this point I just need to get a well-paying job.

Thinkful is attractive because it is very structured and includes a support for job seeking. In some cases there is even a money-back guarantee tied to finding a job. The structure would help me stay focused (something I'm not great at) and I feel like I'd have a real skillset when I'm done. I'm thinking of their Full Stack Flex track.

Code Academy is attractive because it is less structured, and so I could pick and choose and have more flexibility for my other life responsibilities (family, current job, current job seeking). It is much less expensive. And while it may be less structured than Thinkful, it is still much more structured than me trying to pick stuff up on my own. The corresponding track on Code Academy is the Web Development Path

I would be interested in hearing from people who have been through a Thinkful program and people who've done a full track on Code Academy. Are the programs good? Did you learn what you set out to learn?

Also important - how valuable are the skillsets that I would learn in these courses? They are Javascript front end and back end. Some Node.js, some React. Taken by itself, is that a good foundation? Does it constitute a marketable set of skills?

I'm in the Boston area.
posted by Winnie the Proust to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who hires programmers, I use Code Academy only as a sign of interest, not as evidence that you know programming. I find that it helps the learner discover if programming is something that they are interested in and to get a taste of it. I wouldn't hire someone as a junior developer whose only education in coding was Code Academy because it does a lot of hand holding and doesn't teach how to work on a project. If you did CA and then used that knowledge to create a project of your own or to contribute to an open source project, though, I would consider you.

I am not familiar with Thinkful, so I can't comment on that.

In general, people who I interview who have attended bootcamps or who have done online training all regret that their program did not include enough realistic project work. Whatever route you choose to go, I would recommend thinking up a project and implementing it start to finish. An example might be a to-do app or a blog. Work through it from the set up of your dev environment to publishing it using something like Heroku. Make sure you are using git and Github as part of your project process.

Javascript and Node.js are great, marketable skills. I recommend doing a search for junior front-end developer jobs to see what the minimum requirements are to get an idea of what other things you might need to know. Common things I see on almost all job postings are that you are familiar with a version control system like git, are familiar with agile methodology, and have used some Javascript framework (of which React is one example).
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I finished a full path (data science) on Codecademy. I got a lot out of it, but it's not comparable to a comprehensive program. It's basically Duolingo for code (and equally just-one-more-lesson addictive). It's broad, rather than deep, and the hand-holding system doesn't give you leeway to tinker and experiment and get things wrong. There's no independent project work. The whole thing took no more than 30 or 40 hours, and I finished it in about a month. And for the price, that's not bad! It whet my appetite for the subject, and gave me the basic skills and confidence that I needed to get into a much more intensive program.
posted by theodolite at 12:02 PM on February 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've tried a lot of different things including Codeacademy and various tutorials. The thing that worked best for me as far as tutorials was Colt Steele's Web Developer Bootcamp. I find his manner really engaging and down-to-earth, and easy to follow. (I also learned a ton from his Python course).

I'll also always recommend Recurse Center if it's possible to take 6 weeks away in NYC. You need some basic programming knowledge to get in, and some self-motivation, but being surrounded by very smart, very experienced people (and some who were more like me) accelerated my knowledge a lot. It's free, with scholarships for living expenses for people from underrepresented populations in tech.
posted by taltalim at 4:38 PM on February 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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