My Review of Launch Academy

TL;DR

On a scale of 1-10, I would give the program a solid 9. The curriculum is engineered such that you are pushed further than you feel you can reasonably reach but not far enough that you crack – this provides maximum growth in a short window of time. Career Services is still in the air since I just graduated, but they are well connected and invested in each and every student. They are generally good about keeping us posted on looming deadlines and any changes to existing plans but could still improve a bit. Strong candidates for this program would be people who have a natural aptitude for problem solving, enjoy tech, need a hands on in-class learning experience and want to accelerate a rapid transition into the new field of programming.

Curriculum

You can go back to my previous posts to view what was covered week to week from ignition (pre-campus learning) to graduation. As someone who knew only a tiny bit of HTML/CSS and a touch of JS before enrolling, learning Ruby was a perfect introduction to the world of programming.

The curriculum is of course based around Ruby and the framework, Rails – otherwise referred to as Ruby on Rails. This language is often lauded as a beginner friendly language for its readability and intuitive layout. I can’t speak to other languages like Python or Java but I will say that I feel I have a solid understanding of what to expect from a programming language and believe that learning the next one, probably python, will be even easier than it was to learn Ruby.

When you are going through the program you often feel overloaded. Personally, I made it a goal to cover all the material, even optional – but this was, at times, very difficult. So, when you are in the thick of it you feel like you are being given to much but by Thursday everything begins to click for you, and this is something they told us day 1 – it’s true. When looking back at what you learned, however, you feel like you could have handled more. To this extent, they strike a really good balance between pushing you and making sure you build and retain a foundational knowledge of the core concepts and methodologies.

Staff

When you go in day 1 you will be assigned a mentor group, which meets every morning from 9:38am to about 10:30am. This will end up being one of the more critical elements of the program for you. Since mentor groups are separated and caped at around 8 people each, you will have ample opportunities to ask for clarification on the nights readings or anything in general that you are struggling with.

My mentor was Nick and I can’t recommend him enough. Nick is very committed to making sure everyone understands a concept before moving on to the next one and he has a knack for explaining complex things in simple terms. If you have Nick you are in good hands – be thankful. This isn’t to say the other mentors aren’t good – because they’re all awesome! I’ve personally had them all answer questions for me throughout the course of the program and they all spoke from a place of authority and confidence in their understanding of the material.

Like I said, there are 4 mentors but you will also have a rotating list of ‘guest mentors’ for when you mentor goes on ‘dev day’ – where they do actual coding for Launch Academy up on floor 10 to keep their skills sharp. These guest mentors are super awesome too. Eben is basically a coding genius and someone who is genuinely excited to teach and explain concepts to people. Justin is more on the administrative side but incredibly knowledgeable and a pleasure to deal with – he walked me through more problems than I care to count.

All in all, the staff is young, knowledgeable and incredibly enthusiastic to be teaching aspiring developers and this enthusiasm is contagious. Be sure to ask questions when you feel you are spinning your wheels, the staff are a valuable resource that should be used.

Culture

As you can already imagine, the culture of Launch is one that is vibrant, enthusiastic and very inclusive. There is a distinct feeling from day one that you are being welcomed into a family. It’s really nice being part of something where everyone is unified in their goal and vision for the future. We all want to be quality programmers and the staff want that for themselves (dev day) as well as wanting to equip us as best as possible for the future.

The material can be, strike that – usually is, stressful so they have a section of the day devoted to unwinding and letting loose. This comes after the system check on Fridays. People are encouraged to get some drinks, hang out and do whatever – board games, video games you name it. They also have Launch Votes, which is where you vote people for superlatives, things like – ‘most likely to lose a frowning contest’,  ‘most likely to be an alien’ etc.

Launch Votes are super fun and a really great way to bond with one another through laughter and a little bit of alcohol.

For my cohort, and I’m sure all others, there is an undeniable sense of unity and collaboration that is not only welcoming but critical to each and every student’s success. I never felt like I would be turned away if I asked another Launcher a question and similarly I never turned anyone else away who asked me. We all help one another out and share information to the best of our abilities to help one another out.

Career Services

This is probably the one area that Launch can improve – not in the service they provide but in their execution of it. As far as what they provide, it’s really invaluable. They will walk you through a bunch of stuff:

  • Sanitizing your social media presence
  • Making your Linkedin stand out
  • Writing up a quality Resume and Cover Letters
  • Helping you practice with mock interviews
    • 1st mock interview is a 1/2 hr
    • 2nd mock interview is a full hour and more in depth with technical questions
  • Salary negotiation advice etc

All this is great, don’t get me wrong. One of the nicest things about it to is that they provide you with templates for how to structure your resume and Linkedin account. They will offer you feedback on what you’re putting on there and give recommendations on how to phrase things, what to put in or leave out and general grammar.

Now to the less than stellar part of this section. During your time at Launch you will be required to abide by a series of Career Services assignments from submitting resumes, to Linkedin profiles etc. To go with these assignments, there are a variety of documents that walk you through the process with advice and guidelines and they are very useful.

You’re wondering, where is the criticism you promised? Here it is –

  • Nobody can find this stuff, it’s buried deep in the Launch Academy website
  • They need to be more clear on deadlines and appointments by posting reminders to either email or slack
  • Job placement numbers reflect people getting jobs in Boston – their hiring partner connections do not extend past Boston (with a few exceptions)

There is something called Office Hours which is a rotating list of EE’s who meet with, I think, 6 people (20 mins each) Monday – Thursday (different EE every day). The point is, you meet up with them and ask any kind of questions you want and it’s super helpful but the schedule is so difficult to find. The same goes for career services lunch that happens with Dani, I was unable to find any of this stuff and didn’t find out until the last minute, a grievance I also heard from a lot of other launchers too.

Basically, my criticism of career services is that they need to just find a better way to prominently display all pertinent information (appointments and deadlines) and maybe acquire connections outside of Boston. Aside from that, they are awesome and do a great job.

Conclusion

What few grievances I have with Launch are more of a personal nature and not dealbreaker status for applying to the program. Things like all of their chairs being incredibly uncomfortable (hate this) and not having more couches (who doesn’t want to lounge and code?) to not having enough dongle adapters for the newer mac’s (Apple you suck). Hopefully someone at Launch reads this and fixes that stuff so future Launchers have a better experience, but then again – nitpicking.

As to the heart of the review – should you go? Well, that depends. Can you even handle it? In my cohort, 1 person dropped out during ignition, another during on-campus and only 32 out of 40 ended up passing enough tests to graduate and make it to career kickoff – this program is not easy. If you think you are a suitable fit than you need to ask yourself, why a bootcamp? A bootcamp will push you and will make the transition rapid as all hell but you will be missing out on a conceptual understanding of programming. If you are ok with this, as are most employers these days, than by all means, apply.

My personal recommendation is this, if the majority of the following list applies to you than you are likely a suitable match for a coding bootcamp, specifically Launch Academy:

  • You have a natural curiosity for problem solving and understanding complex systems
  • You are a self-starter
  • You enjoy a collaborative environment and work well with others
  • You want to break into the tech field without committing to a 4-year program
  • Coding is something more than just a passing interest of yours, you are in this for both a life and career change (e.g. the long haul)
  • You do not quit easily
  • You have $17,500 stuffed under your mattress and it’s giving you back problems so your looking for a way to unload it all

There you have it. In 18 weeks I went from being a complete and total novice to actually building my own website from scratch. In the beginning, using loops to iterate over a hash was my most challenging obstacle and now I’m fetching data from external API’s and dynamically rendering them to the screen based on user interaction using the React framework and custom SASS styling – woah!

Was it worth it? Hell ya! I learned way more than I thought I would ever know about this stuff and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I can not express how excited I am to now take on new and exciting projects and build off of what I learned in the hopes of being a valuable team member on a really great dev team.

Launch Academy didn’t make me into a master programmer capable of hacking the pentagon but they gave me the tools I needed to go out into the world on my own and explore all available possibilities. Launch put me in the game, now it’s up to me to keep playing and to excel in this new, exciting and dynamic environment.

Make sure to stay tuned for all updates in the future as now I am on the job hunt and simultaneously working on some pretty cool side projects!

One comment

  • Thanks for the thoughtful review! We’re already thinking of ways to ‘prominently display all pertinent information’ for Career Services- solid feedback. Iterate and evolve we will. Keep up the awesome work.

    Liked by 1 person

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