Coders Lab: an alumn's opinion
To my great surprise I have discovered lately a huuuge controversy around preparing to a developer’s job in a way other than: a) graduating from a University of Technology; b) self-study. The c) option are coding schools that in the most common case run programming bootcamps preparing freshmen to their first Junior Developer position. I am the one that went for the c) option (which does not exclude self-study, quite the opposite: it forces unassisted work as much as possible).
My choice was Coders Lab due to its long-term reputation - and because I had kept their handout for 3 years as a fallback plan for my career. Coders Lab offers two paths: Front-End / Back-End, in a pace of your choice: full-time (which takes 6 weeks) / weekend (15 weeks). I enrolled to a full-time Front-End bootcamp that I finished in the end of January 2017.
In fact, anyone can enroll to the bootcamp, regardless of their coding skills (or the lack of them). There are two tests to pass though: one for logical thinking, the other one for English. They are absolutely passable, no worries. If your English is good enough to read documentation and communicate well, this should do. The logical test might be tricky to get 100% of but as far as I’m concerned, more than 50% is OK. Check it out, this could have changed. Having both tests passed, you’ll need to tell a bit about your background and motivation.
Bear in mind that you’ll probably need to enroll to the bootcamp way before your edition will start - and there are two reasons for that:
- There’s a long list of applicants.
- You need to spend some 60 hours with Prework materials and then solve a series of coding tasks on GitHub. Don’t even think of starting the course with no knowledge at all because you didn’t feel like buckling down to study or just went through the Prework briefly and had somebody help you solve the tasks. That will not work and you’d realize this fact the very first day of the bootcamp. Waste of your money. :)
In Coders Lab full-time is full-time. Plus, afterhours, lots of afterhours. No mercy, you paid (a lot!) for the hard time. You’ll have an hour of lunch break which you might end up spending mostly with your nose in the code. No outer pressure, though. ;) Each day consists of a theory parts interspersed with practical tasks. Or rather, practical tasks interspersed with theory, since the former eats up some 80% of the time. You will be sent all the presentations so that you can get back to them at any time.
After the exam you will use the rest of the day for a workshop. You’re actually bound to finish it during the weekend. Plus, homework, every day. Again, practice, practice, practice - and if you don’t have enough, no worries, you’ll be given some extras. :)
Each group (around 10 students) is assigned a mentor, plus, some weeks will probably be guided by other mentors. Mentors are your wells of knowledge and motivation, use it but not overdose, especially in the later weeks. The more independent you try to get, the better for you. On the other hand, don’t be shy asking for help if you get really stuck, mentors are there for you and will do their best to give you hand. However, expect a fishing-rod rather than a fish itself. :)
Bear in mind that your mentor may be (and probably is) overloaded with work so don’t worry if your email does not get immediate response. In the meantime, try to seek solution by yourself - if you succedd, you’ll be proud and likely not to forget the lesson learned.
The last week is devoted to your own project: you can come up with your own idea, take up one of the ready-to-go propositions or go for a charity project. I’d recommend the first or last option but no matter what you choose, if your mentor approves of it, you will definitely learn A LOT. This will probably the most intensive week of all. You don’t have to finish the project by the official end of the course, you will have two more weeks to bring it to a production version - but you have to be able to present your work in front of the audience. This is because during the official day of completion each student will demonstrate their project to all the rest of the group. It’s a kind of a final exam or a “thesis defence” after which you can officially receive a certificate of completion. Plus, a glass of champaigne. ;)
Your first job!
Having your project completed, resume prepared (the CL Human Resources Department will need to approve it first) - you can set forth searching for your first job in the Developer’s profession. Coders Lab sends out the group’s resumes to their partner companies once the edition is finished. However, it is still a good idea to take the initiative and search yourself. I personally was on a one review with a CL partner and didn’t like the company too much. I found a place where I currently work on my own and am more than happy about that, I couldn’t have landed a better place. I will write something more about my first steps as a Junior Developer in the nearest future.
Are there any flaws on this idyllic picture? Sure there are! Coders Lab has developed tremendously during the last years so we experienced some organizational issues such as problems with getting thorugh to counselors on telephone, sometimes misleading information, unexpected changes in classrooms etc. I also regret that my group was the last one that was tought PHP and Wordpress instead of ES6, React.js and Webpack, I’d really prefer the freshly introduced front-end program. Mentors differ as differ people, they are all nice but you may (and probably will) have personal preferences. It’s a good idea to make a little reserach before your edition starts and find out more about the person who will guide your group. You may want to wait for someone else.
For most of people, the biggest drawback of Coders Lab courses is their price. Let’s put it clear: they are expensive as hell. I paid 9 000 PLN which is an equivalent of around three decent monthly wages in Poland. It took me a long time of saving but I believe that the investment will return in the years to come.
Last but not least, if you want to try getting a refund from the Polish Labor Office, good luck! It’s doable but extremely obtrusive. A friend of mine has succeeded with that but I’m not sure you’d enjoy her story… She may want to write a political thriller based on it.
In conclusion, if your choice is a bootcamp rather than self-study, go for Coders Lab. As far as I am concerned there’s no better option currently on the market (correct me if I am wrong). Just pure statistics: 80% of CL graduates get’s their first developer’s job soon after completing the course. I have also heard recruiters repeat that Coders Lab graduates have a good reputation among employers - and I am a living proof of that. So, yes, I do recommend CL. If your ready to commit your saving, time and tons of effort, it’s one of the best options to start.