Talking tech since 2003

When I stepped inside Boca Code to meet the graduates of the coding school's first cohort, I have to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never met any of them before and being that this was the very first cohort I was very excited to hear about the students (now developers) perspectives on the program. Would they love it? Hate it? Did it live up to their expectations? I had so many questions.

I situated myself in the school's conference room, socially distanced (of course) from the first student that I spoke with, Rebecca Bakels. Ms. Bakels, who is the sister of Michelle Bakels, lead instructor at Boca Code, told me she was a frustrated retail employee looking to transition into the tech industry as a developer. The 10-week course aims to teach its students the fundamentals in both front end and back end development including covering javascript, SQL, NoSQL, APIs, HTML, CSS, React, and Python. "The program exceeded my expectations," said Ms. Bakels during our conversation, she went on to tell me about how she built a complete full stack app (it leveraged an API, database, and front end) for her final project using the Rubber duck debugging method.

"The best thing about boca code? It’s a community. They’re trying to sell students potential," I was told by Skarzold Bellingar, a former computer science student at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Bellingar, who came to Boca Code out of frustration with the rate of his progress at FAU and was "tired of being taught the same thing in five different programming languages," wanted to improve himself, a common trait amongst the students in the first cohort and one that's absolutely necessary to succeed with programming in general, let alone a coding bootcamp. While Skarzold said his initial computer science background helped, he was quick to point out that by no means did he feel it was necessary to get started.

After January 2021, Bobby Langley was unemployed, he had just finished helping in both the Presidential campaign and Georgia Senate runoffs and was looking for his next act when he signed up for Boca Code. Mr. Langley, who had zero knowledge of programming prior to going into the course told me "you need to want to be here," with respect to getting the most out of the program. He went on to tell me the phrase "let's talk it out," is lead instructor Michelle Bakels' most well-known saying around Boca Code that's usually followed by a white boarding session. After the course, Bobby built out his final project called Clean Earth, a full stack web app with an API, database, and front end, something Bobby told me he would have never been able to do 10 weeks ago. I signed up to test it out and I can say it definitely works! Great job, Bobby!

The last student I spoke with that day was Dennis Shea, a tech industry veteran who got his start at IBM in Boca Raton where he focused on helping build out early Intel chipsets. Unlike other students, Dennis decided to attend Boca Code as a way to refresh and update his skillset. One of the biggest differences between his programming days in the past versus today is the fact with today's frameworks and libraries there's so much more you can do as a developer, plus "now it’s all about testing and iterating quickly instead of building for years and then releasing," Shea said.

The general sentiment amongst the students in the first Boca Code cohort was overwhelmingly positive. I also recently learned one of them already landed a new job as a software engineer at Florida-based City Furniture. Others are still in the interviewing stages and are continuing to work on projects to build their developer portfolio.

As an entrepreneur myself, I love and respect what Todd Albert (Founder at Boca Code) and his team are doing -- it's not an easy job! Whether you're just getting started with coding or simply looking to refresh your skillset, Boca Code is teaching its students the fundamental principles they will need in order to enter the tech workforce. That being said, while graduates of the program will have a firm grasp of the fundamental principles and frameworks, they may still need some guidance from more experienced developers to continue furthering their skillset. Nonetheless, it's an exciting time to be in the Florida tech ecosystem!

If you're interested in learning to code but aren't ready to commit to a 10-week course, Boca Code also hosts free sessions where you can get to know the team and even learn about coding. Also, I know for a fact that the team would love to welcome anyone who's interested in visiting and checking out the space as well, so feel free to drop by!

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