Why Bloc? Is it worth the money?

As word started to get out that I accepted a job offer, the questions started coming in. Why Bloc? Is it worth the money? Can someone without a tech background really get a job with Bloc’s course?

Let’s go backwards and start with that last question.

Can someone without a tech background really get a job with Bloc’s course?

I’m a “career changer” with no background in technology or development. I have a degree in finance from the University of Central Florida and have worked for a wealth management firm since college, eventually becoming the Director of Operations and a registered Financial Advisor. I chose Bloc.io as my “bootcamp” to navigate the transition from financial services into software development. Last month, about 68% through the course, I accepted an offer for a Full Stack Developer position and turned down 2 others. So in my experience, yes someone without a tech background can really get a development job with Bloc’s apprenticeship style course.

Is Bloc worth the money?

This question always comes down each person’s preferences and values. For me, time was the most important factor as I was already in a successful career and had savings to put towards a course. I was deciding between a few paid online courses, a couple local in-person traditional coding bootcamps, freeCodeCamp or learning on my own.

Pretty early on I decided to take the paid course route as those paths seemed to be more of a straight line from Point A to Point B. The paid courses seemed to save me time, time of figuring out where to even start and time in making countless decisions along the way of where to go next. The other significant difference for me between freeCodeCamp and some of the paid bootcamps was having a mentor. I’ll go into more detail below regarding why I chose Bloc over the other paid course options.

Bloc’s part-time web development course costs a bit under $9,000 and offers several payment plan options. Is the Bloc course worth it? It was for me. The curriculum, the mentorship, career services and the time saved by following a proven plan were well worth the cost for me.

So, why Bloc?

Here are the main factors that went into my decision when I was selecting a coding bootcamp. Since I’m writing this towards the end of my course, I’ll include a retrospective viewpoint on each point as well.

Online vs In-Person

Like I said earlier, I was already in a successful career and earning a great income so leaving my job to do an immersive bootcamp wasn’t an option I was looking for. UCF offered a part-time in-person bootcamp that I was interested in but after a few bad customer service experiences and having a young puppy, I removed that option from the list and focused on the online options.

In retrospect: I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like if I had attempted an in-person bootcamp. Between having a young puppy and working full-time, I don’t know how I would have learned on a fixed schedule. The flexibility of learning on my own time and from whatever location I needed was a huge benefit.

Bootcamp vs Apprenticeship

Already having career experience, I knew firsthand what it would take to build a skillset for success. I wasn’t looking for a flash in the pan introduction to development, I wanted to learn the craft, to build my skillset and grow my confidence as a developer. This takes time and time was the biggest ingredient missing from traditional 3 month coding bootcamps. The asset of time combined with working alongside a professional developer really set Bloc apart from the other options for me. In my opinion Bloc wasn’t a bootcamp, it seemed like an apprenticeship style course and that’s what I was looking for.

In retrospect: One of my favorite moments during my job interviews was when they’d make a negative comment about coding bootcamps and I’d reply “I completely agree, that’s why I chose Bloc. I wanted to take time to really learn development and build my skillset and I believed their apprenticeship style course and working alongside a professional developer would be better suited to meet those goals.” The look on the interviewers face was priceless and they seemed to take me more seriously after that.

Mentorship

Alongside the previous point, the mentorship offered with the Bloc course was a huge draw for me. Coming to tech with no prior experience, taking an online course and having no friends in development, I loved the idea of having someone in my corner. But it wasn’t just support, from my research I learned Bloc’s mentors were professional developers who had practical experience to offer on best practices and what was actually done in the field versus talked about academically. Some other courses offered mentorship, the in-person bootcamps had instructors and some other options only had community forums.

In retrospect: I can’t imagine what learning development would have been like without having a mentor. This is the factor I underestimated the most in making my decision. Having someone to turn to with questions, get feedback from and freak out to when I was feeling stressed or insecure was such an important factor in my journey.

Customer Service

Bloc stood above and beyond the rest in regards to the customer service I received during my research. They were always helpful, professional and never pushy. Some other’s made me feel like it was all about making the “sale” not the learning experience or the curriculum offered, this disappointingly included the bootcamp offered through my alma mater, UCF.

In retrospect: I’m glad I went with my gut on this one, all of my interactions with Bloc have lived up to my initial impressions of them.

Price

Looking at the paid courses, I liked that Bloc had a set cost. Some of the other options took a percentage of your salary for the first year after course completion. Each option has it’s pros and cons but since I knew I’d already be taking a pay cut when I made the career transition, I preferred to know what I was paying and to get it taken care of before my transition took place.

In retrospect: I got exactly what I paid for and couldn’t be happier. I’m a professional developer before I even finished the course!!!

Languages & Frameworks

Bloc was teaching AngularJS and Ruby on Rails, UCF was teaching React, Node and PHP, other’s were offering a “choose your stack” option. After speaking with several developers in the Orlando community, which language and framework to learn become much less of a factor as I kept hearing “just go deep in a language and framework, it doesn’t matter which one”. I took that advice and chose the course that I believed would best set me up for success.

In retrospect: This was my biggest insecurity throughout the course. Did I choose the wrong language to learn? Is Rails dying? Should I have learned Node? As these questions crept up, I’d talk to other developers and my mentor and my concerns would always subside as I kept hearing the same advice over and over. “Just learn and go deep in a language/framework and from there picking up whatever I need to WAS THE JOB of a developer”.

In the end, I actually got hired at a company that uses Rails. On the front-end I’m learning Backbone.js, which I’ve never used but my new employer never seemed to care about that.

Career Services

Bloc offered a career services aspect that many of the other programs advertised as well. From my research and speaking with Bloc directly, their career services seemed more robust than the other programs. With Bloc career services felt like a continual preparation, not just an afterthought at the end of the course.

In retrospect: The impression I got from Bloc during my research, that career preparation was continual and not just an afterthought, was spot on. I completed career checkpoints throughout the course that prepared me for my job search. In fact, I created my resume and portfolio at about 50% into the course and landed a job before I got to the 70% completion mark. Thankfully they didn’t save all this stuff until the end or I wouldn’t be where I am today!

In conclusion

This was my experience and reflects the factors that were important to me in choosing a program to help me navigate my career transition. My biggest piece of advice for anyone choosing a coding course is to take the time upfront to figure out what matters most to YOU!