aleks Gorbenko

aleks Gorbenko

{a_G} | Meditations on Strategy and Tech

24 Apr 2016

Choosing The Right Online Coding Bootcamp

An Accidental Email

The last couple of weeks I have spent researching the boot camps without actually planning to do so. While I have done that already before and had my eyes on Viking Code School for several months now (as you can probably guess from some of my previous posts)

I wasn’t even looking around until I came across the blog LearnCodeWith.Me targeted at the beginner programmers. I signed up for it and had a quick email conversation with Laurence (founder of the blog).

After mentioning that I am about to sign up with VCS, she jus casually let me know about one other boot camp that she helped develop the curriculum. Well, I had a look….which led me to check the market once again.

Surprisingly, I have found several new players out there with their online offers, which naturally made me re-think my choice carefully.

The Boot Camps Under Consideration

I will mention here that I was only considering completely online self-paced or full-time courses. The reason being - I am based in London and while there are a couple of options here, they either don’t provide enough value for the price that they are asking, or they cover only Front-End technologies (I think a better choice to start with would be the full-stack program). On top of that, the starting dates are not flexible. Which led me to look mainly at the US-based options.

At the end of the first day of the research, I had 4 possible candidates worth considering:

  • Viking Code School
  • Launch Academy
  • Flatiron’s Learn-Verified
  • The Firehose Project

But as I moved into the details of each of these companies, the harder it was to choose between the four. Each had their unique strengths, their curriculum was roughly more or less the same. Price-wise all four were at a good point ranging from $3,000 - $5,000 in total, which I think is quite reasonable with a few months savings. Naturally, I have found myself in a difficult position.

What To Look For And Avoid When Researching The Coding Boot Camps

To get out of it I realised that my perspective should be changed, my question should be not “Which out of the 4 is the best?” but:

  1. What does a good boot camp offer? What sort of knowledge and experience should it give?
  2. Which one has the most of the qualities from question 1?

Then I came across this - The Definitive Guide To Choosing a Coding Bootcamp written by the founders of the Firehose Project and this webinar, which is made by the Launch Academy and hm… the Firehose Project founders…again…funny right? Both, the guide and the video really helped me to clarify which qualities I should be looking for in different programs. It helped me to answer my first question (and making my choice more difficult along the way). In short here are the qualities of a solid boot camp program according to my research:

  • World-class mentors with a wealth of experience in the software engineering field.
  • Coverage of the CS fundamentals such as Algorithms and Data Structures.
  • A collaborative project where you produce a real working app with other students (ideally using Agile methodology approach).
  • Full-Stack curriculum (not entirely JavaScript based, you can read why here).

So now I knew what to look for but what should be avoided? Which metrics are completely meaningless? Lots of the boot camps have jolly numbers on their homepage, such as:

“93% placement rate after graduation”, “$106k average salary”, “more than 10,000+ hours of learning materials”. None of the three statements matter. Because of one thing called statistical selection bias.

After that, the process of narrowing down my choices became a bit easier.

Learn-Verify was quickly eliminated after finding this Reddit comment:

Author: Nashville_bound I asked Learn about the algorithms and this was their resonse…. “The program is focused on web programming, but does have components that touch on traditional CS algorithms” I’m not sure how much is necessary or how much they offer but yes, you were correct. Believe it or not I have had numerous bootcamps tell me they do not cover it at all.

“Touch on”? I don’t think that sounds particularly re-assuring.

Tip 1: if a salesperson says to you that fundamentals are not really that important in the job search and employers just care about coding skills - that should raise a red flag.

Tip 2: whoever messaged you back to confirm your call session with any bootcamp ask in the reply to have a mentor or a technical person to be on a call too.

OK, three left. At this point, I have watched several webinars, had a number of info sessions, went through several prep-courses, read countless reviews on Quora, Medium, Reddit, etc. I decided that my next step would be to set up interviews for each and ask as many specific questions as I can, with the main one being:

I am choosing between three boot camps: A, B and yours. Tell me what can you offer that the other two cannot and why I should choose you?

When the question is posed like that it is quite hard to answer, I think. It assumes that the person who is answering knows 2 things:

  1. He/she knows the competition well, what they offer and how they differ.
  2. He/she knows the unique strengths of their own company.

It will become clear very quickly whether he/she is not informed on these. As quickly as if the person is informed. Of course, it is naive to expect that every boot camp knows every single of its competitors, BUT if we talk about online boot camps, there are only a handful of players there and not knowing them is bad.

So when you get a very concise and confident answer for such question - you are on the right track! That’s a clear sign that the person on the other side of the wire knows his shit. For me, that person was Marco from Firehose Project. He gave me reasons as if they were obvious. What impressed me even more, is the fact that he didn’t try to sell me his product really, he gave me an advice and it will be especially valuable to those who are considering boot camps. I won’t be able to quote, but it the idea was:

Author: Marco, The Firehose ProjectDon’t look for the boot camps that teach the hottest current framework or technology, these will come and go. Instead, look for boot camps that will teach you how to think and solve problems like a developer.

Besides of the reasons above the Firehose Project meets all 4 qualities of a solid boot camp. Combined together it led me to make a decision and signing up with them. Tomorrow is actually my first day and I am super excited to “drink from the firehose”! To make the most of the journey I will be posting one article a week covering what I have learned/built and my overall view of the program.

Some Other Notes

After talking with LA guys - I made the conclusion that at the moment their online program is a bit too young as it launched in December 2015/January 2016. Their in-person offer has actually some great reviews - check below. Viking Code School Flex (self-paced program that I was going to enroll in) also appeared a bit too long (6-10 months) after comparing to other options(3-4 months). It is actually a good thing in itself - they have the most in-depth online curriculum on the market. It just won’t fit everybody’s schedule.

Overall I think, Viking Code School, Launch Academy (in-person) and Firehose Project are great choices on their own and will be a great fit for many potential boot campers.

Ultimately, there are also other factors, that can (and will) affect your decision. Your location, in/ability to relocate (and some people go as far as to travel to NY from London just to attend the boot camp), your budget (of course!), your learning style(online/in-person, full-time or part-time and self-paced). But these are all very individual for each case. And in my case the fact that Firehose has some mentors based in London also played a role :)

A couple of people from Newbie Coder House group on FB messaged me with regards to some of the boot camps. The idea of this post sprouted from these conversations. This post does not cover all boot camps that I came across during my research (both online and in-person) but if you are want to save some time on your research - let me know, I might be able to help you out :) Feel free to get in touch with me via email or Facebook.

Additional resources


What are the best online coding schools available?

The Dirty Little Secrets About The Worst Coding Bootcamps Out There

How important is algorithms when choosing a bootcamp?

Cracking the Coding Game - How to Find the Best Coding Bootcamp Out There (video)


Viking Code School

The Firehose Project

Launch Academy

Flatiron’s Learn-Verified (look for online reviews only)


Viking Code School

The Firehose Project

Launch Academy

Flatiron’s Learn-Verified (look for online reviews only)


Viking Code School

The Firehose Project

Launch Academy

Flatiron’s Learn-Verified