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Latest Bristol & SW tech news, updates and training dates for your diary.

Hannah worked in the finance industry before making the switch to Tech – an affinity with figures certainly helps when learning to code and she has taken to the Bootcamp seamlessly.

Hannah Coding Bootcamp StudentWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

BSC Maths and French, eight years in an accountancy firm (audit and corporate finance).

Why consider a coding bootcamp?

I heard about the Develop Me Coding Fellowship from a friend who had completed it a couple of years ago.

I felt my accountancy job didn’t particularly suit me and I was curious to see what coding was all about, so I did a few Codecademy courses and then completed the Develop Me part time front end course. I loved it and immediately signed up for the bootcamp!

What was your main reservation about doing a bootcamp?

Would my total lack of tech experience be an issue? Would I become overwhelmed by the number of new concepts to learn?

Tell us how your experiences have addressed that worry?

All concepts are taught from the ground up and no previous knowledge is assumed, and so my lack of prior experience hasn’t been an issue at all.

I am also finding the pace more manageable than I feared. The instructors have been great at breaking down complex concepts into manageable chunks and we are given the time and space to practice and ask questions.

What level of coding had you done before the course?

A couple of Codecademy courses and the Develop Me part time front end course.

How are you enjoying the Coding Fellowship Bootcamp?

I have loved it. It’s all about using logic and building things, both of which I find very satisfying.

I’m really enjoying the feeling of learning something new every day.

How is the LIVE remote learning going?

It’s working really well. I don’t think our learning has been affected at all by going remote, it’s just a shame we can’t hang out together as a cohort.

There’s been a lot of pastoral care from Develop Me which has been lovely, with care packages and weekly one to ones etc.

How have you been supported on the course?

The support has been really good. There’s always someone to turn to for advice, whether it’s technical or careers-related.

What have you been most proud of before joining the Bootcamp?

This is a tough one, but this year I’m feeling proud that I had the guts to walk away from a stable and well paid career that wasn’t giving me satisfaction

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for almost 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Jack started early with his love of computers and studied that at college – after a period of time in careers outside of tech he decided to take the plunge and invest in himself to make a firm career change to a Junior Developer.

Fellowship Student JackWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

I studied “computing and information technology” in college which primarily covered computer hardware construction, repairing software errors, and system security.

After that, I moved to Spain and on my return worked in various hospitality jobs before joining the bootcamp

Why consider a coding bootcamp?

I have always been interested in web development but was unsure how I would get on the career ladder.

After talking to the instructors and past students I could tell DevelopMe offered a speedy, direct journey into becoming a Junior Web Developer.

What was your main reservation about doing a bootcamp?

Would I be able to learn and retain the large amounts of information in such a short period of time?

Tell us how your experiences have addressed that worry?

Joining DevelopMe has been an accelerated kick start in the right direction.

I’ve learned more in the past few months than I would have been able to teach myself in a few years. It’s been challenging at times but a very rewarding experience.

What level of coding had you done before the course?

Apart from the preparation work that Develop Me gave me, none.

How are you enjoying the Coding Fellowship Bootcamp?

I currently have two weeks left of lessons before starting our projects and I am sad at the thought of it ending.

I’ve enjoyed my experience at DevelopMe and the instructors and teaching assistants have been supportive, knowledgeable, friendly and professional.

I would recommend the course to anyone that has an interest in web development.

Due to Covid-19 the learning environment is now Live Remote rather than in the classroom! How have you found that? 

The transition to work remotely has been seamless.

I mimicked the classroom by positioning a TV monitor above my laptop which is where I play the lectures.

It has also given me extra time to learn as now the commute consists of walking 10 meters to my laptop instead of taking a bus and a train.

How have you been supported on the course?

All of the instructors and teaching assistants have been very knowledgeable and supportive. They have created a very welcoming, comfortable and relaxed environment which makes them very approachable with any questions or concerns you might have.

The Friday 1-1s are valuable for regular reflection on how the week went and for personal feedback.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for almost 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Keeping the DM community whilst remote

Taking our full time Coding Fellowship Bootcamp students from a classroom to ‘Live remote’ setting felt like pulling out part of the heart of our offering – the Develop Me community. Our main concern wasn’t if we could transition the teaching online, our instructor team are incredible and highly experienced so we had no worries there, it was more how we would keep the same great social dynamics and community alive when everyone was so far removed physically.

However, as you’ll see in this article, student feedback shows that remote learning during the lockdown has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The highs have far outweighed the lows and student bonding from a distance is totally possible. We should never have worried, the community is very much alive!

Making the changes

2020 has seen people globally swept from their usual way of living with very little warning. And whilst the extreme nature of the change may be temporary, the reality means that the businesses lucky enough to continue trading have had to adjust their offerings extremely quickly.

We were confident we could make adjustments to teaching our students from home because we knew our instructors would be able to deliver the course content expertly online – we are a tech company after all, so effective content delivery using a myriad of software was never the issue. We leant on the experiences we’ve gained over the last 4 years running the Coding Fellowship and with a few weeks of planning and hard work we had the course ready to be taught remotely.

Tutor Teaching Set up

Our worry? How would our students cope with this solitary learning experience?

It’s 9 weeks since we took our students remote and we have successfully graduated 12 very happy students who produced incredible Apps in the last week of their course. They worked entirely remotely in groups of 4 and produced outstanding results proving that they did not need to be in the same room to work collaboratively on projects.

Our current group of students started remote and will, most likely, end remote. We have monitored them carefully, using the daily morning ‘stand-up sessions’ and one-to-one feedback sessions every Friday to check in on their learning experience and mental heath – This is what they tell us.

Main student challenges:

  • Worries around how to bond and emulate the social interaction of a group – fundamental to the classroom dynamic and creating a fun learning experience.
  • No opportunity to ‘look over your peer’s shoulder’ and learn from their live coding sessions.
  • Less accountability and the temptation to take a break rather than complete extra challenges if you finish the class coding exercises early.
  • Reticence about asking small or simple questions in front of everyone in an online session.

Addressing those challenges:

  • Morning webcam ‘stand-ups’- 9.30am sharp to check-in every student – asking how they are feeling and sharing any worries and ideas. This has seen the group rally round to support each other.
  • Online socials with ‘BYO drinks’.

Student social photo

  • Student music channel in Slack where they share music they like to code to – this cohort enjoy anything from trance to Irish instrumental!
  • Paired programming to view others’ workings and tackle code challenges together – great for learning from each other
  • Live remote code reviews
  • Introducing more accountability to those students issued with follow up challenges
  • Help channels and chat rooms in Slack and Google Meet where students have the opportunity to talk one-to-one with instructors and teaching assistants

Surprise bonuses of remote working:

  • No distractions. Concentration sky rockets. Coding needs focus so this has worked really well for the students
  • We record each live lecture and students really value the opportunity to review and recap
  • Feeling physically relaxed and well rested – and not having to commute means extra time to exercise, use our mindfulness coaching or review code before kick-off each morning
  • Described as: ‘A perfect use of time’ during lockdown and has been a huge help for those living alone as they feel part of a learning community
  • The cohort feels they are really pulling together and supporting each other. Everyone is making an extra effort to do well because they are all in a very unique time together

Top Tips to get the most out of a remote classroom

  • Have a second monitor linked to the same computer so you can look at different things at the same time
  • Use the HELP chat rooms as much as you need – don’t be shy to ask questions
  • Be on time in the morning for the morning ‘stand-up’ – don’t hang around in your pyjamas half asleep
  • Organise some extra ‘Hangout’ chat groups with your peers during the day to compare code/ideas/challenges with students at the same level as you
  • Take your breaks – always take time away from the screen – if allowed outside – do it!

Our thoughts:

We are extremely proud of our students, instructors and support staff who successfully reduced a mountain down to a molehill when this terrible pandemic demanded quick thinking.

Everyone has kept smiling – although a little sleep might have been lost at times in the early days of reorganising our entire teaching process!

The future. What does it hold?

So – do clouds hold a silver lining?

Maybe so.

For us, we are currently exploring the opportunity for a more blended learning experience for our students in the future.

For our students, they may have unlocked the ability to work globally. Having proved they can become a Full Stack Web Developer in a remote environment, this twist of fate has broadened their ability which enables them to apply for global jobs right from their homes here in the South West.

Richard had a strong background in code before enrolling on the Bootcamp – it is interesting for him to cement, update and grow his knowledge as he progresses through the course.

Richard Coding Fellowship Bootcamp StudentWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

PhD in Linguistics/Phonetics – former lecturer in Linguistics/Phonetics

Why consider a coding bootcamp?

Because I have been working in coding in a self-employed capacity for some time. I have already created online video courses in web development and have worked on projects of my own.

However, I had got to a point where I had exhausted my knowledge and wanted to get work in the development industry proper.

What were your main concerns before enrolling on the bootcamp?

That I would start out as the class expert for a week or two because of my prior knowledge, but quickly fall behind as the gaps in my knowledge were exposed!

How do you feel about those concerns now?

The instructors have been very helpful throughout, patiently answering my questions.

There has been more new material from the very beginning than I expected, and the pace has been quicker than I expected, so I have not been finding it too easy – which is good!

What level of coding had you done before the course?

HTML, CSS, MySQL, PHP, jQuery, and AJAX in projects I created for my online video courses.

Some of my work:

https://www.webinaction.co.uk

https://www.youtube.com/webinaction

How would you describe your experience so far on the bootcamp?

More challenging than I expected for the early weeks, but great fun and I’ve learnt a lot already!

Due to Covid-19 the learning environment is different to what you expected when you enrolled, now you are learning remotely, how are you finding it?

Very good. It’s much better than me than having to move to Bristol for three months – so absolutely no problems in that regard.

What your proudest moment before you joined the course?

Having my daughter!

How would you describe the support on the course so far?

Very good – everyone is kind, they were concerned when I was briefly ill, and have fostered a very supportive atmosphere in which everyone feels they can chip in or ask questions without being judged negatively.

Jack our teaching assistant in particular has been wonderful in stepping in at a moment’s notice and sorting out problems or pointing me in the right direction – and always so calmly!

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for almost 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Adam was one of our students that had very little to no experience of coding before the course. This is quite unusual, however, he has absolutely showed that this has been no barrier to learning, keeping up and enjoying the bootcamp whilst making good progress.

Adam Coding Fellowship StudentWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

I studied philosophy at uni, before working in business development and then travelling.

Why consider a coding bootcamp?

Programming has always intrigued me, and I discovered the Fellowship while deciding on a long-term career path. I researched it more while discovering the joys of coding, and haven’t looked back since.

What were your main concerns before enrolling on the bootcamp?

My main concern was the level of expertise needed upon entry – I didn’t know the first thing about web development until about 6 months ago. Also there is always going to be the anxiousness that comes with such a significant financial investment.

Have those worries been addressed?

The DevelopMe team are super welcoming, and the course starts from the absolute beginning so you don’t feel like you’ve skipped over anything. In terms of the investment being worth it, the employment stats and feedback from previous students are more than reassuring!

What level of coding had you done before the course?

None – only the course preparation work.

How would you describe your experience so far on the bootcamp?

It’s been great!

Tell us how the remote working situation is for you.

Because I don’t live in Bristol, working remotely has had a huge benefit as I don’t have to commute. There is still constant interaction, and if anything the circumstances have brought a sense of community to the cohort.

How would you describe the support on the course so far?

Really strong, the atmosphere is great and no one is ever made to feel like they can’t ask a question. There is also always a teaching assistant on hand to help you when you’re stuck.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for almost 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Avi has a very different background to many of our students and this is a complete change of career. He is thoroughly enjoying the course and has surprised himself with his brilliant ability to keep up with the pace of an intensive course!

Avi Coding Fellowship StudentWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

I served in the Israeli army for 5 years as a Combat Infantry Officer and afterwords continued working in the Security industry in a variety of roles, both in New Zealand and the UK for 3.5 years.

Education-wise, I never had the chance to go to Uni so all I have is a high-school graduation certificate.

Why consider a coding bootcamp at this point in your career?

I started to feel my career wasn’t challenging enough and realised it brought me very little satisfaction or pride in what I do, so I decided it needed a dramatic change.

What were your main concerns before enrolling on the bootcamp?

Am I smart enough to finish this course? Will I be good enough to find a job after graduation? Will I enjoy doing this kind of work? (Mainly a lot of self doubt)

How do you feel now?!

So far I think I’m doing pretty well! I’m not the best in class but I’m doing much better than I thought I would. I understand most of the concepts and subjects we are learning and I’m able to put them into practice.

Even though it can be VERY frustrating at times, I still really enjoy the puzzle solving and figuring out how to make things work!

What level of coding had you done before the course?

My only experience with coding before joining Develop Me was a few “code along” HTML and CSS tutorials I watched on Youtube.

How would you describe your experience so far on the bootcamp?

I really like it. The teachers and teaching assistants are very professional and knowledgeable. From my perspective as a student, the fellowship looks like a well designed institute in which every person has its purpose and everyone is doing their job happily and passionately.

Tell us how the remote working situation is for you.

At first I was very concerned about how it will work, or how it will affect my learning but so far I must say I am very pleased with the way it is managed.

I would have loved to be able to have the social aspect of the course, meeting the other students in person and making friends face to face.

On the other hand I don’t need to commute for over an hour, each way, every day. Everything has its pros and cons, so I’m trying to focus on the positive sides of the situation we’re in.

How would you describe the support on the course so far?

Excellent. All of the staff are very supportive, professionally and emotionally.

Even when I have a lot of questions or find it very hard to get my head around a specific subject, the teachers remain calm and supportive and try their best to help me understand.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for almost 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Maddy had the same concern about the intensity of a Bootcamp that many others have. She talks here about how her fears have so far been unfounded primarily due to the level of support offered at all times on the course.

What was your background before joining the Bootcamp?

I worked for 5 years in analyst roles working with health data. Before that I worked as an assistant in the coordination of clinical trials.

Why did you choose to join a coding bootcamp at this point of your career?

I did some programming using R (a language used in statistical analysis) in my previous roles, and found I really enjoyed it.

I also did some online courses, and as I liked these, it further convinced me that a career in web development could suit me. I was also really attracted to the variety of roles available in web development.

I saw the fellowship as a great way to quickly gain the skills I would need to get my first job in tech.

What concerns did you have before enrolling?

I worried about the intensity of the course, and how I would cope with learning so much in a short period of time.

How have those worries been addressed after a few weeks on the course?

The course is definitely intense, but the support from the instructors and teaching assistants has been great, so I haven’t felt out of my depth. I have been really impressed with the quality of the teaching, and the insight into how things are done ‘in the real world’.

How do you feel about having to do the course remotely?

I have been really impressed with the setup of remote working on the course. It’s easy to ask for help if I am stuck, so I do not feel isolated. It’s disappointing that we are not able to do the course in person at the moment, but I think DevelopMe have done a really good job in the circumstances.

How do you feel about the rest of the course support?

The support has been great. There is always help available if I need it, and it’s good to have the 1-to-1 sessions at the end of the week to go through any concerns I might have.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for nearly 5 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Henry is a recent University graduate so has found coding at an early stage in his career and is thoroughly enjoying the journey so far.

Why did you decide to do a coding bootcamp?

I had wanted to do something like this for a while, however, as I had only just finished studying at uni I did not want to spend a large amount of time back in the classroom again. So an intense bootcamp to turn around a new skill quickly solved that problem.

What concerns did you have before enrolling?

Primarily around how good the job prospects are after finishing the course and being unsure of how difficult the process of getting placed in industry was.

Now, 3 weeks into the course I understand the job application process and what is needed for that to go smoothly.

Henry Coding Fellowship Bootcamp studentWhat level of coding had you done before the course?

Very basic – just the preparation work Develop Me gave me and a small amount of freecodecamp. However, so far I am keeping up well, feeling positive and enjoying the journey!

You are learning in a remote classroom rather than on site, which is different to what you expected – how are you coping?

The remote situation is going well due to the level of support the lecturers and TAs give.

How do you feel about the rest of the course support?

The overall support for the students on top of the code tuition is really useful.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for 4 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Nik like many others, got to a point in his career where his day job was losing its appeal. He had a reasonable level of coding experience already, however, has found revisiting the fundamentals at the start of the bootcamp really useful in cementing the knowledge he already had and preparing him for what’s to come over the next 3 months and beyond!

 

Bootcamp Student NikWhat was your background/career before you joined the Coding Fellowship bootcamp?

I studied Mechanical Engineering receiving a ScB (Bachelors of Science) undergraduate degree and staying for a 5th year ScM (Master of Science) degree, graduating in 2012.

I then worked for the Electronic Medical Record software company Epic in Madison, Wisconsin, starting in the “Technical Services” division supporting healthcare organisations with their use of the software.

In this role I learnt to read, write, and troubleshoot back-end code (based on MUMPS). In later years I advanced on to more project management and managerial roles working with healthcare organisations based out of the Epic Dubai (3yrs) and Epic Bristol (1.5yrs) offices before finding Develop Me.

Why consider a coding bootcamp?

I had reached a point of burnout in my previous job and also wasn’t finding as much enjoyment in the project management/management role I had moved into.

What were your main concerns before enrolling on the bootcamp?

Will the course truly set me up for industry standard work in 16 weeks? Will it be worth the investment? Will I actually enjoy coding and programming?

How have those fears been dispelled 2 weeks into the bootcamp?

I’m feeling pretty confident on the “industry standard” part at this point and so far have been impressed by the instructors knowledge about what is typically used in the working world.

I’ll have to see about the investment part in a few years probably, but so far things are indicating yes!

I am enjoying the course more than I thought I would and am excited to start the course each day. It’s fantastic and I enjoy the structure, the balance of lectures, exercises, and projects.

What level of coding had you done before the course?

The only experience I had before the course was basic HTML through WordPress. This is what got me interested in coding.

How would you describe your experience so far on the bootcamp?

As I mentioned before I had done quite a bit, although I had not used this knowledge in my work for probably 2.5 years.

The course is great about covering the fundamentals for folks that have no experience, and this has been good for me to cement in my knowledge (and learn things I’d been taught improperly). On the flip side the instructors have been great about providing additional challenges for the more experienced students.

Nik studying remotelyDue to Covid-19 the learning environment is different to what you expected when you enrolled, now you are learning remotely, how are you finding it?

Learning-wise I don’t feel like it’s negatively impacted the experience much at all. I think I’m probably getting a little less out of overhearing other students questions or asking quick questions because you have to jump into a Hangouts.

I also think it’s a good “trial run” to see if I’d like freelance or extended remote work.

How would you describe the support on the course so far?

The support has been great. The instructors and teaching assistants are very available and I feel comfortable asking any questions I have. The weekly 1-1s are also good to know how you’re doing overall.

We have been running Bristol Coding Bootcamps for 4 years and welcome anyone with a learning attitude and a genuine desire to put 100% into their career change. Find out more about our Bootcamp here and get in touch with any queries!

Ollie Francis and Becky Taylor from UX Consultancy Deckchair are the tutors for our 10-week part time UX design course. Having worked for many years in industry before teaching the curriculum, they come with great insights into the evolution of UX design over the years. 

Ollie talks to us about how concentrating on the User Experience enhances their offering to clients.

Ollie Francis – Founder of Deckchair

As someone who started my career in the design space more than 20 years ago, I often reflect on how I arrived in the world of user experience. 

As projects became more digital and more complex, my overriding sensation was that the creative part of my brain understood that me and my team needed to shift from the subjective world to an objective one. We needed to start designing with facts, rather than instincts and experience alone as we had done before.

This was for a few important reasons:

1 – Things went wrong

 “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”, Oscar Wilde once said. We often learnt the hard way what the right way was. As we tackled bigger and more complex digital projects, we learned that we needed to craft and follow a more user-centred, evidence-driven process to ensure our projects didn’t fail.

2 – Clients became more savvy and more risk-averse

They started to challenge our solutions, often with good reason but more often due to their own previous bad experience. 

Digital projects are expensive and clients also learned the hard way. We needed evidence to back up our approach and the solutions we were offering. 

Conducting user research, gathering and analysing data, including using other peoples’ research and referencing conventions, gave us strong supporting evidence to put our clients’ minds at rest.

3 – Tech and developers evolved and they needed more solid designs to work with 

Mobile took over the world, forcing coding practice to evolve, and projects became more intricate. 

Letting the visual design lead the project, and allowing designers or clients to change designs at their own whim meant that seemingly small design decisions had critical effects further down the line in web development. A design wouldn’t translate to mobile, it wouldn’t have the desired effect for a user, or it would suck up days of extra development time and budget when the dev team worked on making our concepts real.

By building on user needs, with real user stories, and working in collaboration with developers early to map user journeys and site maps, we found we saved time and ironed out technical issues early. Suddenly developers didn’t hate us anymore – we were teammates instead!

4 – We could measure our impact

The simple fact is that the more user-centric we become, the better our solutions are and greater still, we can prove it. As we learnt to use research, data and analytics, we could measure the results, use hard numbers and most importantly relay actual user feedback to prove our solutions were solving their problems. 

5 – Projects were more successful

Now we understood the users’ better and were creating solutions to meet both their and our clients’ needs, our projects were more impactful and had significantly higher success rates. The users’ experience was hugely enhanced, they achieved tasks quicker and described the joy when completing those tasks. Our clients achieved their goals and objectives sooner and with higher conversion rates. Development teams thanked us for our input rather than scorning us. 

There is always an important place for creativity and instincts in the design world. But when creativity is partnered with user-centred design principles and solid digital processes, projects are successful, teams and clients are happy and the users’ needs are met.

As experiences become more interactive and users have more complex needs, designers with UX skills have a far better chance of creating things that work, solving real-world problems and guaranteeing themselves a place in the creative industry.

Our next UX course takes place in our ‘Live Remote Classroom’ starting on the 14th May in the evening. Suitable for designers and those with no experience this course works with a live client project so the students come out with a real portfolio piece at the end of the 10 weeks.