Man Paid $11,000 To Double His Salary

coding boot campSAN FRANCISCO -- Looking for a career change, Ken Shimizu decided he wanted to be a software developer, but he didn't want to go back to college to study computer science.

Instead, he quit his job and spent his savings to enroll at Dev Bootcamp, a new San Francisco school that teaches students how to write software in nine weeks. The $11,000 gamble paid off: A week after he finished the program last summer, he landed an engineering job that paid more than twice his previous salary.
"It's the best decision I've made in my life," said Shimizu, 24, who worked in marketing and public relations after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. "I was really worried about getting a job, and it just happened like that." Dev Bootcamp, which calls itself an "apprenticeship on steroids," is one of a new breed of computer programming school that's proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs. These "hacker boot camps" promise to teach students how to write code in two or three months and help them get hired as web developers, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000, often within days or weeks of graduation.

"We're focused on extreme employability," said Shereef Bishay, who co-founded Dev Bootcamp 15 months ago. "Every single skill you learn here you'll apply on your first day on the job."

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These intensive training programs are not cheap -- charging $10,000 to $15,000 for programs running nine to 12 weeks -- and they're highly selective, typically only admitting 10 to 20 percent of applicants. And they're called boot camps for a reason. Students can expect to work 80 to 100 hours a week, mostly writing code in teams under the guidance of experienced software developers. "It's quite grueling. They push you very hard," said Eno Compton, 31, who finished Dev Bootcamp in late March. Compton is finishing his doctorate in Japanese literature at Princeton University, but decided that he wants to be a software engineer instead of a professor.

"For people who are looking to get involved in software in a big way and don't want to set aside four years for a computer-science degree, this nine-week program is a terrific alternative," Compton said. One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn't charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student's first-year salary. Graduates who can't find jobs don't have to pay, but so far nearly all of them have.

"When I started it, people thought we were crazy. Why would you do something like that? But in practice it's worked out well so far," said Ned Ruggeri, who co-founded App Academy last summer.

Over the past year, more than two dozen computer-coding schools have opened or started recruiting students in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. The programs are attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. Most students haven't formally studied computer science, but have tried to learn to code on their own.

Alyssa Ravasio, who graduated from UCLA with a liberal arts degree in 2010, worked at tech startups but was frustrated because she didn't know how to write software, so she signed up for Dev Bootcamp.

"What we've learned in the last nine weeks would have taken at least a year, if not years, on my own," Ravasio said. "I knew I wanted to learn how to code, and I tried to on my own before and it was really hard and really frustrating."

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But as more boot camps open, backers worry that low-quality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters.

"I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats," said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. "If they mess up, they kind of ruin it for everybody. Then students have to worry about whether these schools can actually deliver on their promise."

The coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry, which has been lobbying Congress to issue more visas for engineers and other skilled immigrants. The boot camps are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts.

The new schools say they are teaching students the real-world skills that employers want but colleges have failed to provide. "Our school is a lot shorter, cheaper and more applicable to the work they'd like to do than universities," said Shawn Drost, who co-founded Hack Reactor in San Francisco six months ago.

This intensive-learning model can also be used to train workers for other professions for less time and money than what traditional colleges require, Staton said. "We think this is the beginning of a really large movement that will happen across industries," he said. Bishay, an Egyptian-born engineer who sold his first software company to Microsoft in 2001, started Dev Bootcamp as an experiment. He wanted to see how quickly he could teach his friend and other non-techies how to write code.

"I used about 10 percent of what I learned in college in my first job, and I figured I could teach that 10 percent in 2½ months," Bishay said.

Dev Bootcamp has trained about 400 students, and 95 percent of them have been hired as software developers with an average salary of about $80,000, Bishay said. It's now opening a campus in Chicago. The school doesn't just teach technical skills. It teaches students how to work in teams, communicate better and interview for jobs. On graduation day, it invites tech recruiters to meet students at a "speed-dating" job fair.

"Finding engineering talent is a big challenge right now, and Dev Bootcamp is addressing a really important problem," said Felicia Curcuru, who was recruiting engineers for FundersClub, a San Francisco company that connects investors with tech startups. "There are not enough people studying computer science."

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Angela J Shirley

Well I am glad this all worked for him. Since not everyone can do what he did, quit his job and pour his savings into school - these programs need to start getting involved in helping the less fortunate. Scholarships would be a great start. If they helped just ONE "unemployed" person every 9 weeks, think of how this would help our economy. It is time programs like this realize that they need to contribute to society. Wow, $11,000 - that is like the cost of a brand new car!!!

December 12 2013 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SUN CHASER has over 50 programming bootcamps reviews and side-by-side comparison of Ruby on Rails, Javascript, PHP, Python and C programming schools

December 04 2013 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've heard of people so desperate for work that they take a free work week if hired or pay the boss at the interview for the job.

April 23 2013 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the chicago politician prez wasted trillions of hard-earned American $s in funding union jobs for votes socialist jobs bills to help be reelected! he even gave away billions of our tax $s to reward terrorist groups for taking over egypt and libya, which over $100 million was laundered to finance the prez' reelection campaign. that's corrupt politics chicago-style.

April 22 2013 at 11:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

advertsiment - and BS

April 22 2013 at 10:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Retro Leds

I think this is a load of stinkbricks - yeah, we churn out web developers in 9-12 weeks. Sure, you might teach them to build a website(probably much of it templated out) but that isn't a "Web developer", that is just a web site builder/coder. A true website developer needs to understand about business, advertising, graphics, markets, best uses of different technologies(and when not to use them). Funny article - why wasn't this in the humor section?

April 22 2013 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think this is a great idea and would help revolutionize the way we go to school. Instead of traditional school programs that require 1-2 years of general studies (English, social studies, basic algebra, and etc) classes that most people learned in High School before continuing on the next 2-4 years to 'the meat and potatoes' of what their field is about.

It doesn't make sense to force students into these extra electives just to earn 'credits'. All colleges should be like technical schools and all focus should be on job oriented tasks and knowledge. I don't need or care about the history of how we found electricity to learn how to wire a house. Just teach me what to do and not do. I don't need write an essay on the production of corn, I don't need to take calculus or learn biology. Just teach me my frigging job and let me go do it! Why does that take 4 years? An apprenticeship would only take a year or two. So why do I need to sit in school for twice that to learn what I would on the job in half?

April 16 2013 at 3:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to unshy13's comment
Retro Leds

Because then you would be some shmuck that would be fairly useless outside of the limited scope of what you were taught. Knowing a little about how it used to be done adds greatly to your confidence in why we do it differently NOW.

April 22 2013 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This idea is the same as a trade school was years ago and a great idea. Not everyone gives a damn about the history of the medium. Let them learn how to do the job. These people can get out on the job in a short time and not be buried in debt for the rest of their lives. Maybe some of the liberal arts professors will be signing up for this when they lose their jobs.

April 22 2013 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

not reading this but the azzhead needs to be shot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

April 16 2013 at 2:57 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Jag Financial

Great Article and when you finish the school here is a way to pay off your debt and save on the interest in a fraction of the time;

April 16 2013 at 12:28 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

My wife said she would pay 12K for me to be 30 years Younger, Don't know why ?

April 15 2013 at 5:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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