3 min read

Q&A with Jeffrey Wan on Turing School, Flatiron School, and coding bootcamps — reasons people fail, how to prepare, minimizing regret, and more

I’m researching programming schools / bootcamps (mostly decided on either Flatiron School or Turing School). I reached out to Jeffrey Wan because of his insightful responses on Quora: Is the Turing School of Software & Design a good school? He generously responded with comprehensive and honest answers. Thanks so much, Jeffrey!

1. What are some reasons people fail or drop out?

I can think of a couple of people who dropped out… Here are some possible reasons:

  • They didn’t do any prework before the bootcamp to become familiar with programming fundamentals. It’s tough to learn how to code from scratch and I think doing some prework to at least become familiar with strings, integers, conditional statements, and basic syntax of the language is really useful to give your brain a sort of head start before the bootcamp.
  • They didn’t have good study habits and conditions: a quiet place, some baseline of focus, few distractions, and a clear mind.

I would definitely read Learn to Code by Chris Pine and maybe do the Michael Hartl tutorial beforehand. If you’re in the frontend program, find a good JavaScript/jQuery and CSS tutorial before the program.

2. How did you prepare for Turing? Knowing what you know now, what could you have realistically done to prepare for it?

When I was in Turing, the front-end program and back-end program were one. I learned Rails and JavaScript/jQuery/Ember. I prepped for it by reading Learn to Code and doing the Hartl tutorial. They helped tremendously.

I think doing the rubymonk.com tutorial is great prep. Learning some Ruby/Rails and coding something like a tic-tac-toe command line application before Turing is a good way to prep too (you can easily find a tutorial on this).

3. What alternatives did you consider? And why did you end up choosing Turing?

I chose Turing because of the length of the program. I thought longer was better. I considered Flatiron too but I really just wanted to get out of NYC for a while.

4. What do you like versus don’t like about Turing?

I like the length of the program, the people I met, and the location (Denver is cool!).

I would have liked to see more reusable written materials or tutorials versus lectures to be honest. I think some more experimentation with different learning/teaching methods is being done though which is great to see and hear about. I did really like their focus on project-based learning and peer learning!

5. What questions should I be asking before making the decision to (1) transition to software development and (2) proceed with Turing in order to minimize regret?

Is there something in your life that makes you want to learn how to code? Something in your career? For me, I worked in professional gambling and HFT (high frequency trading) prior to Turing and I really wanted to learn to program as a means to an end. That drove me. What drives you to learn how to code besides the money and career stability? I think that helps a lot for long-term sustainability of a career.

I think all of the major bootcamps are practically the same. You’ll learn how to code anywhere I think and honestly most of the effort is going to be on you. Turing will certainly help your cause but a lot of the heavy-lifting so to speak is going to be done by you. Do you want to live in Denver for 7 months and write a lot of projects? If so, go to Turing. Another option to consider is finding a scholarship for women… I know a lot of bootcamps are encouraging women and minorities to enter tech (a field littered with high-paying and stable work) which is great to see. With the scholarship, your cost will go down by maybe half? You could use the saved money to take some inexpensive computer science classes online like a formal course in databases, OOP, or several in the emerging field of data science.

Your end goal project is to show off to employers your understanding of web software and design in a single page application with a separate backend (e.g., a Rails backend on a server + React and Redux frontend consuming the backend’s API on another server) with ample unit and integration testing (use Rspec for Rails and Jest for React) with maybe some utilization of an external API to incorporate some real data (maybe make an application that utilizes a free public API like Spotify. e.g., your Rails backend can consume some Spotify data, run some analysis on it (how many people listen to Taylor Swift in each country), and have your React application display these findings which your backend will expose via some API. Just a thought.

If you can do that and show it to employers, you can get a job and learn more on the job, and the wonderful cycle continues of learning and producing code. You’d be all set.

I think concepts to learn well are:

  • Databases and database architecture
  • OOP (polymorhpism and reusing code)
  • Consuming and exposing APIs
  • Testing (watch Sandi Metz’s videos)