Become a Programmer in 6 Months


Jeff Dean is the lead Galvanize instructor at Galvanize’s Boulder campus. Currently teaching his 3rd cohort, he joined Galvanize faculty from Pivotal Labs, bringing over 10 years of coding and instructional experience to the classroom. Here, he explains why Galvanize – unlike other coding programs – is six months, instead of three or four.

In the past few years the web has undergone a significant change, and now more than ever users expect web apps to be dynamic and well-designed. The full-stack developers who create these applications need to be able to move fluidly between writing server-side code that interacts with databases and writing JavaScript, HTML and CSS for user interaction. For someone new to the industry, the big question is “How long does it take to become a full-stack web developer?” At Galvanize, we think the answer is 6 months.

I’m often asked why our program is longer than other similar programs.  At Galvanize we believe that anybody with interest and aptitude can learn the tools of the trade, even with little to no prior knowledge of programming. While it only takes a little while to learn programming basics, becoming a productive web developer involves so much more.

The new full-stack

Our goal at Galvanize is to provide students with skills that are highly relevant to the industry. Right now with emergence of front-end frameworks such as Ember, Angular and React, it’s no longer sufficient to just teach a server-side framework like Ruby on Rails. Increasingly we see that startups and larger tech companies alike are moving towards richer front-end applications. To keep pace, our full-stack immersive course is now essentially two courses in one: a 3-month Ruby / Ruby on Rails curriculum, and another 3-month JavaScript / Ember.

Frameworks like Rails and Ember are complex, and they have strong conventions that can appear to be “magic” to a new developer. By working through two frameworks students can begin to see the commonalities, making it much easier to learn any other framework later on.

Speaking the language(s)

Learning to code requires learning both a written language and a spoken language. Students need to know where to put the commas and where to put the spaces, and they also need to know how to describe the code they are writing.  

In order to develop this duel fluency, students need to do months of writing code every day. Given that we focus equally on Ruby and JavaScript, we’ve found that 24 weeks is just about enough time to develop that fluency.

Thinking algorithmically

Full-stack developers need to have a solid foundation in programming fundamentals. Being able to break down problems and write the programs to solve them is the most rewarding aspect in programming, and one of the hardest. At Galvanize, students build several multi-week projects where they encounter complexity as a result of needing to solve increasingly difficult problems, and they can easily see where theory meets practice.

Staying calm

Finally, developers need to remain calm in the face of complex problems, to approach work in a consistent and steady manner. The first time you hit an error, it will be frustrating. By the 30th, or 200th time, it’s just another day at the office. We want all our students to be there when they graduate, instead of pushing that responsibility off to employers.

Taken together, developing the ability to turn requirements into software using current frameworks, to be fluent in writing and speaking about code, to be able to synthesize these tools in order to solve complex problems and to maintain a methodical approach is no small task. Through several graduating classes, all with fantastic outcomes, we’ve found that 6 months is the perfect amount of time for a complete beginner to emerge as competent junior developer.

Take the next step! Learn more about our web development and data science programs today.

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