The Economics of Flatiron School
While I was still employed in Virginia, I thought long and hard about the value of going to a developer bootcamp.
Before deciding to come to the Flatiron School, I had gotten back into programming after a hiatus in college. I had taken a couple high school CS classes and I felt confident that I could learn to code on my own. I knew it would take longer than if I came to a bootcamp. Maybe 6 months instead of 3 months. $12K was a lot of money to me and having grown up without a lot of money, this would be the most money that I had spent on anything, so understandable this was a big decision. (I just noticed that it’s now $15K. My logic still applies.)
Whenever you quit a good job, there’s a lot of uncertainty. What if I don’t find another job? What if I don’t like New York?
Pre-Flatiron Pro/Con List
- A community of people to learn with
- Frequent feedback from instructors
- A structured environment that kept me moving forward
- Placement services afterwards
- Alumni connections
- A commitment device
- Getting a job 3 months earlier
- Connect with the NYC tech community
- Spend 4-6 months of living expenses
- Move to a more expensive city.
After a week, I realized that the math was actually really easy. Even if I got a job that was 60K, which is on the low end, I would be gaining $15K for having a job for three months earlier. So that by itself would equal the tuition, and I would be getting the other benefits thrown in as well.
That’s a no brainer, I gave my notice the next day.
A review of the first half
We do a lot of labs here. One thing that I didn’t realize is that there is a lot of setup involved. In cooking, there is the concept of mise en place, or putting in place, that needs to be done before you can fire up the stove. It’s mostly cutting vegetables and measuring out slices and it’s really boring. Fortunately, the labs often have a lot of the setup done for us, so that we can get coding right away. That’s work that I would have had to do myself if I was learning on my own.
For the first six weeks, I’ve worked 55, 62, 60, 51, 62 and 52 hours, been able to do the labs and work on stuff on the side. I would say that 55-60 hours is probably a minimum number to everything done and work on side projects. I don’t think I would have worked this much on my own. The 12K was a commitment device to work hard. Being surrounded by talented and motivated people doesn’t hurt.
A lot of the iOS curriculum is being built out and sometimes I feel like a beta tester. That’s how something work though. No one is going to hand you perfect code. The swift change will also mean more changes for the curriculum. iOS is new and fast moving.
Most of the time, you can get a lot of instructions from tutorials, stack overflow and documentation. That’s when you don’t need an instructor. But there are also times when you hit on a problem that’s really annoying and you have no idea what to do. Apple Mach-o linker error is my least favorite. The error codes never make any sense. I google around for a while and don’t have the answer. That’s when you need an instructor.
Having 17 other people work on the same labs helps in a couple ways.
1. If you’re stuck, someone has the answer.
2. You solidify your learning when you explain a concept to someone else.
3. You crowdsource better ways to do the same thing.
Otherwise, I’ve been really impressed by the other students who come here. They’re thoughtful, entrepreneurial, artistic, and fun to hang out with. And they’ve all quit their jobs to be here, just like me.
One major advantage of working in a team is that you realize how hard git is with when you work with another person, something I would have waited to learn if I had taught myself.
When you go to a “school”, it’s easy to forget that the Flatiron School is a startup. From hearing what the team believes, I think they know the importance of maintaining the brand and investing in the education of young people. They seem focused on the long term and building the HBS of developer schools.
The school is in downtown New York. There’s a lot of places for lunch here.
Coming in, I had doubts about how much I’d prepared. I don’t feel that anymore. Six weeks in, I’m pretty comfortable that I can figure it out if I don’t know something. I know how to read Apple documentation, google stack overflow and ask for help. In fact, I think this comes more naturally to me than most people and the more code, the better I get.
This week, we learned about APIs and this was really the first time when coding became real. I can now build programs that change the state of the physical world. That feeling is incredibly empowering.
Notes for the second half
1. Maintain health
2. Appreciate the people and the time that we have left
3. Make good art
4. Do a lot of work
There’s two more weeks of instruction left before client projects start. My Flatiron presents is in three weeks, so there’s a lot to be excited about.