Responding to Jeff Casimir
At the risk of sounding hypersensitive, I’m going to take a close look at his post and respond to both the explicit and the implicit messages he’s sending.
I like Jeff. He’s a good guy with a good school. I react strongly against some of the messages he’s sending and I still like Jeff. :)
Jeff started out with a disclaimer too. He said he respects Dev Bootcamp, Flatiron School, and MakerSquare. Cool, me too!
Then he chooses the word “notoriously” to describe the work ethic of DBC’s students: “Dev Bootcamp students notoriously spend super long hours in the building throughout their nine weeks.”
Huh? Are our students seriously notorious? I mean, I’m glad they’re well-known, but I do not appreciate our students’ work ethic being framed as if they’re doing something wrong. I’d prefer a critique of the pace of our program.
To be clear, our students spend super long hours for 9-15 weeks, depending on their learning speed. About 20% of our students take longer than 9 weeks to graduate, and it’s for a variety of reasons (got sick, new baby, got stuck on one concept, etc). We don’t charge them anything extra for their extra time with us. Our program’s flexibility is one of its key benefits.
Jeff goes on to ask us to “suppose that training the brain is like training a muscle” and then says that overuse could lead to injury. Your brain is indeed like a muscle in that you can strengthen it with deliberate practice. But it’s not like a muscle in that you’re not going to tear it, pull it, or strain it. Believe me, I did my best to strain it when I was teaching myself how to become a great software developer during the first five years of my career. What happened during those long hours and late nights was that I often feel asleep at the keyboard. I got tired, I caught up on sleep. That’s it. Our brains are extremely resilient.
Speaking about the DBC “all-in” approach, Jeff says, “Maybe you can get good value out of that approach for nine weeks, but it won’t work for 27.”
Maybe you can get good value? Maybe? Jeff, buddy, your agenda is showing! DBC has graduated over 750 people, they’ve been hired by well over 350 companies across the country (Turing School is one of those companies). And well over 100 companies have hired multiple DBC grads. In 2014, we have many family members and significant others of DBC alumni attending based on their loved ones’ recommendations. Read the latest report from Course Report and see for yourself. This model undeniably creates value. For God’s sake, people are writing songs about it!
I also need to clarify the 9 weeks vs. 27 weeks comparison: DBC’s immersive curriculum is a 9 week curriculum, but add our 9-week remote prep program (~20 hours/week), the possibility of stretching the immersion by 6 weeks, plus our 5-day post-graduation Career Week, and DBC provides students with up to 25 weeks of instruction for $12k. That’s incredible value.
Jeff is right when he says that we don’t value work/life balance for our students during their immersive experience. We tell our students to put their lives on hold so that they can learn their asses off for a few months. Many of them choose this approach because they want to minimize the amount of time they are unemployed. Others yearn for that immersive foreign language experience one can only get from visiting a foreign country. They want to only ever hear that strange new language until it finally starts making sense. Then after about a month, they begin speaking fluently. Putting their life on hold for 9-15 weeks is key to student success at DBC.
Jeff tells his students to “work crazy hard now so you never have to again.” I think this is really bad advice. It mirrors the mentality that many people bring with them out of CS undergraduate programs: “I’ve put in a ton of money, effort, and time, and now I’m ready to reap my rewards. It’s finally time to get paid and get pampered. Where’s the kegerator?!” And then they’re totally uninspired to learn anything else or improve their skills because learning hard is only for school.
I advise this: “Learn crazy hard now so that you learn how to learn crazy fast. Because you’re going to need to keep learning for the rest of your career.” Case-in-point: Our students consistently get non-Ruby jobs. Many of them land jobs doing Python, Node.js, Java, and even iOS. They’ve become world-class beginners (aka professional-grade learners), which means they can quickly transition to valuable team members regardless of the software platform the company is using.
(Don’t even get me started on the workshops our teachers lead on empathy, sexism, oppression, the inner critic, effective feedback, and being authentic.)
I totally agree with Jeff on this point: “The important part is that there are constant expectations on student time and learning.”
But then he drops this little bomb: “If the staff is only there to answer questions, that’s not education.” He doesn’t attach this statement at any school in particular, so the implications are left to the reader. Ug.
I believe Turing School does great work. From what I can tell, Jeff is a good educator. I know some of his teaching team well since one was a 2013 DBC grad, and another was a former DBC mentor. They’re both amazing and Turing students are lucky to have them.
I think the world would be a better place if Jeff would write up a critique of DBC and/or the bootcamp model. It’s clear to me he thinks it has a lot of flaws, and I’d value an explicit critique a lot more than the subtle and indirect jabs in blog posts like this one.