Rocket Academy Bootcamp 2021 Review
Hi fellow aspiring Software Engineer, you have come to the right place if you are here to learn about the life of a student at Rocket Academy’s Bootcamp. I have detailed my experience and personal thoughts after having gone through this 24 weeks-long journey, and by the end of this post, I hope you will be able to make a more informed decision on whether to enrol in the Bootcamp.
If you are a career switcher with little to no Software Engineering experience, I would like to take this chance to applaud you for having the courage to step out of your comfort zone to pursue your interest and to seek an alternative career that could prove to be more rewarding for you. I understand if you are anxious about going down this career path and enrolling in a Bootcamp as it wasn’t an easy decision for me too to spend a few months unemployed and dedicating time and money to something that I wasn’t sure would prepare me adequately for the workplace.
However, after having spoken to veterans in the industry, going through interviews, and even receiving offers, I am confident enough that you will not regret your decision to make this career switch and to take up a Bootcamp.
Table of contents
I will be covering the following topics in this post: (Feel free to skip to the sections that interest you)
- Why did I choose to become a Software Engineer and what made me enrol in Rocket Academy?
- Student profiles — who gets to enrol in Rocket Academy?
- Pedagogy and course content
- Job hunting
Let’s start with a self-introduction so you can understand my motivation for getting into Software Engineering and enrolling in the Bootcamp. From here on out, Rocket Academy will be abbreviated as RA.
Why Software Engineering and RA?
A poor decision, personal interest, and encouragement from the community
IT has always intrigued me ever since I was searching for a course I wanted to study at University. Unfortunately, due to indecisiveness and deterrence from my family, I ended up studying Mechanical Engineering instead. Towards the final year of my studies, I found it difficult to find a job that matched what I was looking for, and Covid-19 was making the job hunt even more difficult. Fortunately, it was also around that time when the government was allocating more subsidies and programmes to encourage Singaporeans to pick up IT skills. I swooped on this opportunity and took up a part-time online Data Analytics course at Gen Infiniti Academy while completing my final weeks in University.
During the course, I realised my preference for coding over Mechanical Engineering, so I started researching full-time courses and participated in mentorship programmes to seek feedback about the industry from veterans. Through feedback, both from my mentor and online articles, I realised that some are not finding their work meaningful. While deliberating if Data Analytics was for me, one of my mentors recommended I try out Software Engineering as an alternative.
A coincidental encounter and reasons for choosing RA
I found out about RA through the CEO, Kai Yuan, who reached out to me in a telegram group of IT professionals. This was some time in mid-2020 when RA was looking for its first official batch of students. Several factors attracted me to enrol in the Bootcamp.
Firstly, after speaking to Kai Yuan, I felt that he genuinely wanted to train students to become job-ready Software Engineers. Secondly, he already had a curriculum in mind and had trained other career switchers who had gone on to begin their Software Engineering careers. Kai Yuan also has had several years working as a Software Engineer and has a strong network on LinkedIn, which added to his credibility. Even better, RA had hired a lead instructor from General Assembly’s (GA) Software Engineering Immersive programme and had a wealth of experience in training career switchers. With limited capital, RA seemed to be the most cost-efficient way for me to start a career. To provide exact numbers, RA’s course fee is currently S$4,999, compared to GA’s S$14,650, 3 months long programme. Moreover, RA is offering a full refund if students are not able to get a job within 6 months. RA can offer lower fees as its classes are all virtual compared to GA which has physical classes.
A point worth noting is that GA has been conducting Bootcamps for a decade and has a global outreach, which could be a testament to the quality of their graduates and network, thus a higher course fee.
After completing the Basics course, students who are interested in the Bootcamp will have their attitude and performance reviewed by RA to be selected for the Bootcamp. You can be assured that everyone in the Bootcamp is motivated and possess an adequate level of competency as the Bootcamp. I learnt a lot from my coursemates as they were very helpful and always went the extra mile to share about productivity tools and new features they implemented in their projects.
Pedagogy and course content
Flipped classroom and daily assignments
Similar to the Basics course, the Bootcamp adopts a flipped classroom pedagogy where you should complete daily pre-class readings and tasks before lessons. During lessons, you will be building on the pre-class tasks in pairs. There will be post-class assignments to build on the pre-class and in-class tasks. Don’t worry if you find it too overwhelming. RA has factored in differences in the learning pace of students by separating their post-class assignments to ‘base’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘more comfortable’ where ‘base’ is the minimum work to be completed. I recommend fast learners to complete the ‘comfortable’ and ‘more comfortable’ sections as they are useful if you want to create more complex projects. They might introduce interesting features that you could implement in your projects and impress your interviewers.
You will also be working on a number of projects which each span around 2 weeks where you will be building full-stack applications and taking a break from learning new content. The topics of some projects are set in stone and others are open-ended where you can choose what application to build, so long you utilize what you have learnt during the course. There will be daily sync ups with the instructors to remove any mental blocks. At the end of every project, there will be a post-moterm with the instructors to review what you have learnt and provide feedback on how to improve future projects. Personally, I found the post-moterms really helpful in consolidating my learning and they improved my code quality as the instructors would go in-depth into my code and point out optimisation and organisation issues. Also, if I were to go through the Bootcamp again, I would pace myself well during the first few projects and concentrate more on the final 2 or 3 projects as that is when I will be equipped with tools to build more complex applications.
The recommended daily commitment is about 6 to 7 hours a day, but oftentimes, I exceeded the recommendation as I either wanted to complete the comfortable and more comfortable sections or needed more time to complete projects. The instructors are really responsive even outside the official hours (10 am — 6 pm) so feel free to approach them when you can’t resolve an issue yourself.
By the end of the course, you should be able to resolve errors and learn independently as you will possess enough knowledge to know how to find answers online and read Documentations. This is an important skill set as your future colleagues will be busy with their own work so you will have limited time to seek help.
I will not be going into detail about the course content as it is always changing due to the responsiveness of RA to feedback from students. Fret not, the content will definitely equip you with the knowledge to start your career as a full-time Software Engineer. If you are interested to know the actual content of the course, you can view their full curriculum here.
RA conducts weekly Q&A sessions with veteran Software Engineers from companies that are usually keen on hiring Bootcamp graduates. In fact, some of my interview opportunities were from the referrals of guest speakers, and I am currently working in 1 of said companies. During my time at the Bootcamp, RA invited new guest speakers for every session to provide students with as much exposure to different jobs.
RA’s network is not only limited to these speakers, many companies have also indicated an interest in hiring RA graduates. If you decide to enrol in the Bootcamp, treat the Q&A sessions as opportunities to find out about the speakers’ job scope and what tasks entry-level Software Engineers’ work on. Find out about the companies’ culture to determine if they are a good fit for you.
Which companies hire Bootcamp graduates?
Do note that this sub-section is based on my personal opinion and your job search experience might vary from mine.
Based on my experience and feedback from past RA students, I have categorised companies into:
- Early-stage startups
- Middle to Late-stage startups
- MNCs / Established companies
- Government / Statutory Boards
Companies that have received seed funding (from tens of thousands to about 5 million dollars) and have yet to receive series A funding tend to be keen on hiring Bootcamp graduates as they have relatively low budgets and are usually not highly sought after by University graduates.
Their interview process is generally tailored to your background as they have a smaller pool of candidates so interviewing with them is a good opportunity to present your projects and receive feedback from them. On the other hand, larger companies make candidates go through an initial round of online technical assessments on topics such as DS&A and other Computer Science fundamental questions so you will have to pass this stage first before showcasing your projects. Do note that the remuneration will most likely be less than a University graduate due to relatively low funding.
Middle to Late-stage startups
These companies have received series A or later stages of funding (usually in the tens of millions). They are usually keen on hiring Bootcamp graduates.
The interview process will likely consist of more rounds as they usually have more applicants than early-stage startups, hence a need for more elimination rounds. That said, I would not worry too much about the interviews as my coursemates and I have received offers from such companies so it is definitely possible to get into these companies. The DS&A assessments tend to be on the same level of difficulty as easy questions on Leetcode and if there are any take-home projects that involve software you are unfamiliar with, do not worry as employers usually just want to know how much you can learn within a short period of time, your thought process, and your code quality. My coursemates have undergone such experiences where they received offers even though they could not complete the assignments. Fret not if you really do not know how to approach the assignments, RA instructors are always willing to offer help even after the Bootcamp to aid you in your interviews.
In terms of remuneration, these companies should be able to provide better remuneration compared to early-stage startups. Some companies will offer Bootcamp graduates the same as University graduates (S$4000–5000), while others will have a lower range of about S$3000–3500. Personally, I believe that such companies are great to start your career with as they are usually expanding rapidly so you will be able to work in different teams and get more promotion opportunities.
MNCs / Established companies
These companies usually have interviews that test on Computer Science fundamentals such as networking, databases and operating systems which is not the focus of the Bootcamp. University graduates have the advantage here and such companies have bigger pockets to attract University graduates. This makes it difficult to get employed in these companies but I recommend interviewing with them as you will be able to find out your knowledge gaps.
Government / Statutory Boards
If you are interested in the government sector, GovTech should be familiar to you. Its interview process is determined by the teams themselves and each job application is only for a specific team so getting rejected by a team does not mean that you cannot apply to others.
Personally, I have received many email rejections without being interviewed or going through any online assessments and only managed to interview for 1 role. GovTech is very popular as its remuneration is high for Univerisity graduates (I know of an entry-level Data Analyst there who is receiving a salary of more than S$5000). Needless to say, it will be very difficult to enter GovTech as a Bootcamp graduate unless you have connections with the teams.
Other than GovTech, I know of a self-taught programmer who managed to land a Software Engineer role at a Statutory Board. Personally, I have applied to the same company but did not receive any interview opportunities so I would say that results vary, possibly due to the number of available positions.
Conclusion — Is RA worth your investment?
Before considering RA or any other Bootcamp, ask yourself if you are able to dedicate 3 to 6 months of your time to studying full-time with your current commitments. If your answer is yes, and if you have more finances and time, you could also consider taking a Masters at a local University. If not, I think Bootcamps will be the perfect gateway for you to break into Software Engineering as it is shorter and cheaper than a Masters, and much more comprehensive than taking a short introductory course in Software Engineering. There are also part-time Masters (eg. NUS) and Bootcamps (eg. General Assembly), but I do not recommend as it will be very draining and inefficient to study after working 7 to 8 hours everyday, and the duration of a part-time course is about twice as long as that of a full-time.
If you are certain that a full-time Bootcamp suits you, I highly recommend RA due to the reasons mentioned in the previous sections. With quality content, an extensive network, dedicated and experienced instructors, and a money-back guarantee, I believe that RA is one of the best (if not, the best) Bootcamps in Singapore.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you find success in your new journey to become a Software Engineer! If you have any further questions related to this article or Software Engineering in general, I will be happy to answer them via LinkedIn.
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