On Wednesday, July 27, some 100 new graduates of the Rutgers Coding Bootcamp will be networking with potential employers at the Demo Day Expo, in Jersey City. NJTechWeekly.com attended the inaugural event, in late April, after the first group of full-stack developers had finished their course work.
“This is exactly the kind of program Rutgers should be doing, and enjoys doing,” said Jim Morris, the university’s associate vice president for continuing education, at the April event. He explained that many students can’t follow the traditional path of entry into college at 18 and graduation at 21.
“Sometimes you make involuntary career changes,” he added. “Sometimes you start down a path and find out it wasn’t the right path for you. It’s hard to make a career pivot, but this program allows you to do so and keep your job.”
Speaking about the two classes of the first group of students to go through the 24-week bootcamp, Morris noted that many of them worked full-time and came to the program for three hours a night on either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, and then for five hours on Saturday. On top of that, they had 10 hours of homework each week at the very least, but Morris acknowledged that these 10 hours often turned out to be as much as 20 hours.
“Everyone had to sign an agreement at the beginning of the class to have 95 percent attendance, 90 percent delivery on homework and 100 percent participation in their project portfolios,” he said. “It’s been wildly rewarding to have people you make work that hard thank you at the end of the course.”
He said that the folks taking the course did work really hard, but they came out prepared to be junior programmers. “They know they don’t know enough. Everyone wants to take the skills and go on to become an accomplished senior developer.”
Rutgers Bootcamp graduate David Stichter, of Flemington, said that he came from a family of electrical engineers and had been an inveterate tinkerer all his life, but that after high school he decided to work in construction doing manual labor. He had taken courses in high school in Visual Basic and Java, “but I strayed away from it.”
By the time he spoke to us, Stichter had already landed a job through the bootcamp program. He said that the experience “gave me a good number of skills I can apply to other things, like problem solving. I like doing the back-end work. It’s all logic problems. It’s just figuring out how to solve the problem in the most efficient way.”
Another program graduate, Tammer Galal, of Clinton, who had been selected to be a teaching assistant for the next class of bootcamp students, said that when growing up he disassembled computers and put them back together. Galal had wanted to be a doctor. He graduated from Ohio State University and was admitted to several medical schools, “but when I started to really evaluate the situation and my student debt, it didn’t seem to be a viable option. I was in debt for about $80,000 for my undergrad education. So I started looking around for coding programs.” He said that he hadn’t considered majoring in computer science because he didn’t think he could do it, but then he spoke to the Rutgers people on the phone. “After I the first week, I realized that this is what I should have done. It’s been awesome so far!”
Alyson Wright, who had recently moved to Somerset from Washington, D.C., went to the bootcamp because she had her own business doing research for authors, and “a lot of them asked me to work on their websites, to transfer things or build things. I didn’t really know that much, so I stared to learn things on WordPress.”
She noted that there are a lot of online resources, but that they can be confusing. As soon as she delved into something, “there was always a new element that you didn’t know.” She took a Java programming course and started looking at bootcamps. “This course gave me the confidence to learn on my own. I think that if I had done this full-time, I would have been further along, and I found it a steep learning curve. But I think I’ll work in the field now, whether as a developer or something else. I’d like to continue doing coding.”
Jeremy Miragliotta, from Parsippany, said that he loved computer graphics, but became a fourth grade teacher, instead. “I wanted to take this course because I am self-taught and I want to take my graphics to the next level. For certain technologies, you need that extra guidance and the practice. I was looking for the bootcamp experience, and I chose Rutgers because it had the ‘Rutgers’ name behind it and I knew it would be something with quality. … I sharpened my graphics skills. There are still certain areas that I need to keep learning. I’ll never stop learning.”
Miragliotta and Paul Santos, from Newton, another Rutgers Bootcamp graduate, have been hired full-time by New Jersey startup Vydia (Freehold).
Launched in 2014, Vydia is a way for artists to publish and distribute music videos on some of the world’s biggest platforms, including Vevo, YouTube, Dailymotion and others. Vydia helps submit content to notable networks such as MTV, VH1, BET and Fuse, providing artists with better opportunities to promote and monetize their videos. The startup boasts over 1 billion monthly monetized streams and 100,000-plus artists.
Vydia plans to close a funding round in mid-August, according to CEO Roy LaManna. The company now has about 25 employees, but hopes to have 40 by the end of the year or early next year, he told us.
LaManna became acquainted with the Rutgers Coding Bootcamp because one of his employees, who has worked for him for five years, had been a teaching assistant there in the evenings. This employee recommended several candidates from the bootcamp, and Vydia CTO Ken Leland III interviewed them during the Demo Day Expo. The field was narrowed down to three or four, and then finally down to Miragliotta and Santos.
“This is very good for us because of the way that we hire,” LaManna told us. “Our structure in general is that we hire senior people with experience, and then we try to get one or two junior people to work under the senior guys to create a team. It’s difficult in New Jersey to source quality developer talent. …Our plan right now is to continue to partner with Rutgers Bootcamp and hire the best two or three candidates that come out of every class.”
In central New Jersey, finding candidates for developer positions is a long, difficult process, LaManna pointed out. By recruiting talent from Rutgers Bootcamp, “that process is cut down from five months to a week. It saves a tremendous amount of time.”