YOU CAN SEE THIS, HUH?
This is my experience with Coding House which I attended from April 2014 to June 2014. I will try to keep from using anyone’s name except the founder of Coding House, Nicholas James. I will use some tweet screenshots that will reveal names associated with Coding House as the tweets can be easily found online. I will not be making claims that I can’t substantiate with either emails or testimonies from my classmates or other students I have spoken with about their experience at Coding House. I just want the coding bootcamp community to know what I went through at Coding House. My writing is unorganized and you will definitely find errors I have overlooked – I apologize for that. I’ve spent a good time typing and going back researching things and it’s becoming tiring.
I found about Coding House on a little-known website in the comments section about coding bootcamps when I was doing extensive research in December 2013 (I liked what I was learning on Codeacademy and wanted to learn from pros). I went to their website at codinghouse.co (which was very different than the current one). I contacted the webmaster of the site about a few spelling and word-usage errors I found on the site. It really reflected poorly of whoever maintained the site because other bootcamp’s sites were professional. Sucked that there was a $14,400 price tag but I liked that a chef would be cooking the student’s meals and that students would live and learn under one house. Also, there was a money-back guarantee if I didn’t find a job within 3 months (which would turn out to have strings attached of course). I decided it wouldn’t hurt to apply and see how things go. I spoke with the a person who was Nick’s operations manager (I’ll refer to this person as Operations).
The call was first to Operations then transferred to Nick. He seemed like a cool guy. I can’t remember the conversation by detail but I remember him asking me about myself, what technologies I was learning and asking him questions. What I really remember was how simple and short the interview was. Before this, I interviewed with MakerSquare in Austin, TX and RocketU in San Francisco and those were very thorough interviews. I expected a little more from Coding House. He would get back to me in a week on the decision. A day after the call, I got an email with my acceptance. Yeah, that quick.
A few days after the call, I found out about this article:
and I emailed Nick about it. He said a cease-and-desist letter wasn’t received by Coding House and started the process in becoming accredited. I thought nothing about it since Nick stated Coding House was in the process in becoming accredited. So, time went by and I was hoping my Upstart campaign would yield the minimum of at least $10,000. I decided to pay the refundable $1000 deposit to hold my spot. Problem was that the Upstart campaign would end around the first deadline (March 23rd) for half of the tuition minus the deposit, so $13,400. There was a few bumps along the way but I did get everything settled.
In one email, Nick said my spot would be given up if I did not get the money in. I remember thinking, “Is he serious? A waiting list? This guy is trying too hard”. Well, I really wanted to start a career in web development, especially in the Bay Area. So I bit. I asked my family for one half and promised I would pay it back once I was working. The other half was to be paid on April 14th while I was at Coding House. I don’t know if it’s legal to post the contract I signed so I won’t.
A few days before Coding House’s inaugural class was to start, we got an email from Nick about a few changes, one including a change from in-house chef to local restaurants catering food. Hell, I was excited for that.
I arrived in San Jose on April 6th. Operations picked me up and told me all this stuff about how developers are treasured and what not. I arrived at the house late and was the last person there. I was surprised to find only four other students were there. I expected to find double that given the information on Coding House’s website.
The first few weeks went by okay. I was getting used to coding all day and eating some good grub that we ordered through Coding House’s food ordering web platform.
We had a meeting on April 11th about our personal sites and public profiles. Nick criticized our websites as well as LinkedIn profiles and resumes. We were to also have the following done by April 13th: blog on a topic of our choice, 2 tweets to @codinghouse, commit personal website to GitHub daily, students follow each other on Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub and to “star there repo” and a recommendation from a past coworker. I honestly don’t know why this would matter but Nick must have known something better than us. Towards the middle of May we used a Google Docs form to answer these questions done on a daily basis:
How many tweets did you post yesterday? *
How many connections did you add on LinkedIn yesterday? *
How many people have you followed on GitHub? *
Did you write a blog post yesterday? *
Did you ask or answer a question yesterday? Include a link.
Here’s a screenshot of the form:
The Klout score is a new thing that the current class probably has to do.
Seriously, how the hell was any of this related to our training and education? Sorry for any of you reading this who received a LinkedIn connection request from me and didn’t know me. Nick would get on our asses if we weren’t trying to reach 500+ connections. I honestly think we spent more time trying to appear good rather than working on our actual skills. I remember two instances where student was punished for not complying. I had already spent $45 (yeah, I’m still paying for stuff) on a site template because Nick didn’t like my old one. He OK’d it. A little later in the program we reviewed our personal sites again and he didn’t like my site and told me to change it (no way I was). I didn’t and when he found out, he had me clean up the backyard. The backyard was a mess (lots of old grass clippings and rocks) by a young guy Nick hired on Craigslist because he fired the 3-person cleaning crew that came by the house the first two weeks (I think Nick wanted to save money) and thought the guy could replace them to save money. The same guy would come by and do odd jobs around the house while we were there. Nick even had the guy install a filtration system into the sink. He had fired the guy and that is why the backyard had not been cleaned up. Nick claimed the backyard would only take 20 minutes to clean but the other guys helped me out and it still took a good hour. I was pissed but did not confront Nick. I didn’t want to start any problems, to just graduate from the program with no problems and get a reference from him when I found a job.
The other instance was when another student I attended with didn’t answer a Quora question (We didn’t answer any StackOverflow questions because the program really didn’t teach us enough to answer them) for that day and he was told by Nick to answer 5 more. I kid you not. Again, this was to make us LOOK good.
Here’s Nick using a Coding House intern’s Twitter account to make a tweet:
He did this to a couple of us while we were in Coding House. He would see our computers are open and would tweet stuff like above. I don’t know why he does it nor thinks it’s okay to do. No one should have to lock their computer at Coding House.
On the topic of making things look good, Nick bought some very expensive photography equipment and brought in an intern to do the positive public-relations façade. Here are the videos: http://vimeo.com/95374293. You see that “Coding House sings” video? We actually took out time that we should have been coding and learning and dedicated it to learning joke lyrics and filming it in various locations. Please understand where I am coming from. None of us students paid $14,400 to spend time jerking around doing a parody video to show how unique Coding House was. It wasn’t time well spent at all. Here’s us rehearsing:
Let me talk about the education and training. First, when I applied to Coding House, we would be learning a lot of technologies in 60 days. We never touched on PHP and we were told by the instructor and Nick that we the students could vote have to learn Rails or not. Why the hell should we when we are barely learning about Node, Angular, MongoDB and mobile technologies. Here’s the surprise: WE WERE NOT BEING TAUGHT ANYTHING. Nick thought that having us build a revamped version of Coding House’s food ordering web platform in node, express and mongoDB (https://github.com/GoldenHomer/food-ordering; note that me and two other students worked on the CSS after we graduated from Coding House so would could have something decent to show) would be a great way to learn. Also, we were told find the answers to our debugging and implementation problems on StackOverflow. Yes, that’s right, we would have to find the answers to our questions on our own. The instructor I’m sure is very skilled in other technologies but the MEAN stack he was not. This is why we didn’t ask for his help towards the end of the program because we would be told to search on Stack Overflow. We would later attempt to rebuild the food ordering web platform from scratch by adding Angular but again, we were learning Angular on our own and that wasted a lot of time and we never finished the final product. Nick would demand more features to be added to the food ordering platform, such as a Google Voice button that could be clicked on and a call could be made online to the restaurant. I remember Nick telling us that he refused to let us give up on building the food ordering web platform and that we need to finish it. He honestly doesn’t know a problem when it’s clearly in front of him. It also didn’t help that Nick had the instructor teaching a nights-and-weekends class while we were suppose to have the instructor’s full attention. Take a look at these photos on Twitter:
Here’s what happened. We were working on the food-ordering platform for sometime now. It would have gone a lot quicker and we wouldn’t have needed to pull this all-nighter if the instructor didn’t waste loads of time telling us students to find our answers on Google. He suffered with us as well, wasting time and staying up until 4 a.m. but it was obvious he wasn’t an expert with the MEAN stack so I’m not sure why Nick thought it was appropriate that someone teach us technologies the instructor didn’t know well. This was around the same time that Nick stopped the ordering of food from restaurants and starting going to Costco and buying canned and frozen junk food. He justified this because, according to him, he wanted to motivate us students to finish the food ordering platform quicker so we can get back to ordering good food. Again, can’t do that when we aren’t learning shit from anyone but ourselves and we are just beginners. I think this was Nick’s excuse to save money. He would keep asking us when we would finish and would tell us he was tired of eating the junk food he bought us. Yes, he was suffering with us – oh woe. This is what us students paid good money for. I will admit that the Sunday BBQs and birthday dinners for students were refreshing when they happened.
I should have looked back at the contract we signed and checked the exercise part out again. Nick made us attend the yoga sessions and martial arts training. As stated in the contract: “developers are free to participate in this session, but do so at their own risk.” Nick would come up to our rooms early morning and wake us up to attend. Does that seem like attending is optional? Is that a breach of contract? I don’t think any of us wanted to get up early after doing coding all day. It was tiring and despite what that tweet above says, we didn’t had energy. Also, I don’t know if it’s legal for Nick to ask for and look at our credit reports. He did this because he wanted to make sure he could get us jobs.
Guess what else we use to learn? Video tutorials. I remember very well that Nick, according to him, would blast Coding Dojo for doing this exact same thing to their students. I kid you not – hypocrisy at its finest. The instructor would upload relevant material to Jira for that day/week and we students would find our learning material from there. The instructor would also send us emails with links to videos as well (I have a lot of such emails). Yes, we weren’t being taught. We were teaching ourselves with Code School, YouTube videos, Pluralsight and other sources the instructor could find on the web. Tests at the end of each phase didn’t help at all. The first test (https://github.com/GoldenHomer/Test-1) was over HTML/CSS. I remember working with the instructor and him helping me out greatly. When I remember that time, he wasted both of our time trying to use pure HTML/CSS to do the layout in the screenshots you can see in the GitHub link above. It was bad and no progress was being done. What made me laugh was one of students used Bootstrap! Why the hell couldn’t the instructor tell me this or hinted to it? I remember that day spending about 10 hours finishing up. The subsequent tests would be over node, express and mongo and the other with the same technologies but with angular. The tests didn’t help at all but should have been a sign to Nick and the instructor as the test should have been indicative how terrible the program was. I was given a talk by Nick about how I was falling behind and how my performance on the second test wasn’t good. Honestly, I don’t know if Nick and the instructor learned anything from the results of our tests.
No, they are not offering positions as Coding House may have you believe. Only one student I know that was offered a position at any of these companies is at Zurb. The rest are companies we toured or spoken with employees (with the exception of MadEye and rocketfuel). Towards the end of the program, WhalePath did visit us.
The pictures of people you see on the Coding House website consist mostly of instructors that do remote video lectures with the exemption a few that do Coding House workshops at Hacker Dojo. Eva Roa did come by the house and lectured us on mobile UI/UX. The video lectures might not be the case anymore but that’s how it was when I was attending Coding House. I sort of expected the mentors to be at Coding House in person when I applied. Also, the two women, Udita and Vanessa, that are listed as on the team I know for certain that they no longer work for Coding House. I’m not sure why Nick has not removed them from the site.
Part of the money-back guarantee was that students send a minimum 10 applications a week, full and complete participation in the program, filling out a job form and getting help from career advisors.
Here’s how Nick tried to help us students after the program. For one, he likes to do introduction emails for us to hiring managers at tech companies that we students would want to work at. The problem is that if one of us tells him which company we might be interested in, he will automatically send an intro email without letting us know or asking us beforehand. Nick sent an introduction email to the CEO of one company on behalf of a student. Here’s the problem: Nick got the name of the CEO wrong, the name of the company wrong and the grammar was terrible. Yeah, it was very embarrassing and this is the guy who was suppose to help us get jobs? Nick forwarded me and another student an email about a job at Thumbtack. According to him, the job was a CSS job and that “there office is supper cool in sf”. Here’s the overview of the job that the hiring manager sent to Nick:
Front End Engineers at Thumbtack are responsible for creating elegant user interfaces, and ensuring that customers and pros have the best experience when interacting with Thumbtack.com. Front end engineers will have a background in web development and building responsive and elegant web applications/software.
Examples of front end engineering projects include:
- Smarty – an autocomplete feature that inputs options as you type in a request. e.g. If you type in “p” then it will auto-fill with the Photography category.
- Standardizing front end components and styles into single infrastructure for faster UI, making and product iteration.
Technologies our front end engineers are using include:
- HTML: An abbreviation for HyperText Markup Language, the language of web pages. A markup language that browsers read to render web pages.
- CSS: Cascading Stle Sheets – a style sheet langauge used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in markup langauge.
- Bootstrap: a free collection of tools for creating websites and web applications. At Thumbtack we use our own version of Bootstrap called Primo.
In addition to the above, software engineers might also be working with the following:
- Building user-facing applications and software
I had actually found this same job on Hacker News and applied. I never got a response back so I assumed I was not qualified. I told Nick I checked out the job. He asked if I already applied and I said yes. He then proceeded to make an introduction without asking me. The same job I applied to not long ago. The hiring manager (I don’t know if the same person looked at my previous application) asked for my resume and I emailed it to see if I could get an interview this time. Surprise surprise, I didn’t get get a response. Nick then emailed me a few days later asking if I followed up and set up a time for an interview. He was actually asking about an interview like it was a sure thing. I didn’t respond back.
Nick also forwarded me an email about an Angular job but the job required 3-5 years experience. In late July, he emailed all of us with two links. This was one of them: http://www.joyent.com/company/careers/node-js-engineer.
All this was after Nick sent me an email warning me about applying for jobs that I weren’t qualified for. Operations also sent me an email with a similar message and also stated that I wasn’t qualified for jobs that required 1-3 years experience. Also, him and Operations couldn’t remember which one of me and another student was applying to Quixey. I had told them that the other student was the one who wanted Quixey. I would later get an email from Operations asking if I heard back from Quixey. It seemed like both of them could never get on the same page.
Nick also sent me an email about contract work. No, I did not go to Coding House for contract work. I was hesitant because while we were in the program, Nick told us about some projects he had and he wanted us to work on them. First, the projects he told us about we felt would take a while to complete given the paltry pay. No way, I rather spend my time looking for a job and networking with people and companies. On the subject of jobs, Nick offered one guy from my cohort a contract position at Coding House. I remember very specifically he told us was that Nick actually had the audacity to say that the position would allow my friend to become a mid level angular and node dev after completing the contract (contract was for less than six months).
The jobs that I was getting phone interviews and screenings with were internships and experienced positions. With all the positions, I was told I was not experienced enough (disappointing to hear that). One internship had me try a Rails coding test. I wasn’t at all familiar with Rails and did let the guy who gave it to me know about my lack in Rails knowledge. I accepted the challenge and I failed to finish it.
Why didn’t I say anything while in the program? Well, I wanted to complete the program so that Nick couldn’t say I take full and complete participation in the program when I asked for a refund. Also, I didn’t want to leave the Bay Area and give up working in a cool startup or an enterprise willing to give me a chance. I was really determined to make something of myself and I did sacrifice a lot to do so. When I left Coding House, I didn’t know enough to be confident in myself. So, what Nick and Coding House was suppose to have accomplished, I had to teach to myself. All of us guys agreed that we were glad to get the hell out of there. What’s funny is Nick sent us an email when the program ended and in the email he said that we now have the skills to be teach ourselves anything and that this was the primary directive of Coding House. It doesn’t take much to see what BS this is. I was surprised Nick never asked any of us in the first cohort for feedback about Coding House before we left. I was prepared to be very scathing in my feedback.
The second cohort didn’t fare well and I won’t go too much into detail here. We spoke with one of the students who dropped out and he demanded his money back from Nick, who offered him a terrible amount so he flat-out refused. It sucks because that student is an international student. So, of the six students who attended, 4 dropped out. What about the other 2? Nick gave them both TAs positions at Coding House. I have an email from Nick telling us guys from the 1st cohort about a student being placed into a position halfway into the program. What he failed to mention was that student who got the position dropped out of the program to start working. He made it seem like he had something to do with that. Also, the international student who was telling us a lot about what happened in the second cohort also mentioned that Nick told the second cohort that there were jobs we in the first cohort were offered but that we turned down. I don’t know what the hell Nick is talking about but never was I offered a job. When I first talked to him back in January, I felt this was a guy who was well connected and knew the Silicon Valley tech scene like the back of his hand. It sure didn’t seem like it.
So the international student filed a complaint with the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the same bureau that was cracking down on coding bootcamps and the one I asked Nick about when I applied to Coding House. I filed a complaint as did some of the guys of the first cohort. They were straightforward with us about their intentions were about Coding House: to either get Coding House in compliance (with an expensive fine involved) or shut down. The BPPE did not guarantee that we would get a refund. We later learned from the BPPE that since Coding House was not accredited (Nick told me he was going through that process six months before), the contracts that we signed were void. Right now, I am trying to get that in print to use against Nick.
I couldn’t stay any longer and I wasn’t going to get a job. I emailed Nick demanding my money back on August 29th:
“This job search is going nowhere, even after 3 months. I’ve wasted enough time out here. I want my money back. You and I both know Coding House was more about making students look good rather than be good and that was evident when WhalePath came to the house. All of the jobs you emailed me I weren’t qualified for and this was after you and <Operations> told me the jobs I were applying to I weren’t qualified for.
<Instructor> wasn’t qualified to teach us (you should certainly know this). You won’t convince me that paying a lot of money to do Google searching and watch video tutorials is actual teaching. I know more about web development right know now than when I left Coding House because I taught myself since I left than Coding House did. There are a lot more problems I can point out that occurred at Coding House.
I just want my money back.”
He messaged me back and told me that he will not refund my money because I did not follow the job guarantee clause in the contract. He mentioned he still wanted to help me. Given the past few months, I did not want his help.
One student and I met with a lawyer and told us that a lawyer might not take a potential case that won’t yield a big payday in court. It was also mentioned that a class-action lawsuit could happen if enough people joined against Coding House but that the lawyer fees and court fees would be costly for us and that we could get less than what we paid to Coding House. The lawyer mentioned Nick may hide and protect his assets by putting them in someone else’s name or something like that (the lawyer seemed to have had experience with people like this). If a judgement were ever made against Nick and Coding House, we may never get our money back. I don’t know, I am upset at Nick and Coding House right now. I just want a refund of my money and to get on with my life.
We met with Nick on Sunday, September 14th. Our intention was to show him a list of problems we had with Coding House and to get our money back else we would take legal action against him and Coding House. Things didn’t go well and we didn’t get to tell him everything we wanted to say. I emailed him the list we wanted him to read. A few emails were exchanged and Nick was confused about what we wanted from him. We wanted nothing from him, just to let him know that when he hears something about Coding House to not be surprised. He also seemed to believe he did nothing wrong, despite what the list of problems that were emailed to him and all that happened with the first two cohorts.
This is as much as I can think of right now. That’s how it was and what I went through since the beginning of the year. I want people to know what Coding House is really like since there is no online review about it that I know of. Right now, I’m feeling scammed out of a lot of money and time as I’m sure the other students are. If you are reading this, share it. I can’t stand by and let people get a poor quality education from Coding House. Contact me with any questions or comments.