StartFast Code Graduate Follows His Passion for Code

David Badillo empowered himself by learning to code to help others.

After five years working for Apple as a Mac technician, David Badillo knew it was time to advance his skills to the next level.

“Working as a tech for Apple was more than just fixing computers, it was about repairing  relationships and I loved that,” said Dave. “I’d explore what brought people to the table and sought out to alleviate their tech frustrations by providing solutions.”

Still, the universe was pulling Dave in a new direction. He would scroll through the various job listings within the company and wouldn't apply. He felt he didn’t have the qualifications necessary to land web developer or programmer positions. Dave always had a passion for coding, and knew it was time to learn more so he could get fired up about the future.

Then Dave learned about StartFast Code through a friend who used to work for Apple and left to start her own company. From time to time they would catch up. Dave was always impressed by how her business was growing, and how happy she was pursuing her own course.

“In addition to starting her own business, my friend has become a solid member of the tech community in Syracuse. She knew about StartFast Code and encouraged me to go for it,” said Dave.

Dave had been working on Wordpress sites and basic CSS projects on the side, and really enjoyed it. Now, with StartFast Code, he was presented with an opportunity to learn how to enrich the lives of others on a different level by learning to code and creating amazing user experiences through web design.

“I always enjoyed the idea of coding but never really did anything about it until I heard about the program,” Dave said. “StartFast Code taught me more about how server-side/backend works, and how popular coding languages can be implemented into a management system.”

After a few months of learning CSS, HTML and Javascript, Dave knew he was on the right track. With each tutorial and each project completed, his excitement for what the future could hold expanded.

“A few months in with StartFast Code, I started to see that more opportunities were available to me.” said Dave. “Originally, I took the course to gain the in-demand skills needed to land a different position at Apple, but the thought of being out in the wild and working for myself captured me, so I decided to embark on a new path.”

One month before graduating from StartFast Code, Dave parted with Apple and started his own company - NEATify. He said it feels amazing to make a living, all the while, being aligned with his passion.

“When choosing a name for my company I thought about how people look at technology. Whether it’s Apple Pay or using a new integration, ‘It’s neat,’ is something they say,” said Dave. So NEATify is about combining the skills I learned from being an Mac technician (Apple Genius), with my passion for coding to help people create - something neat.”

Though grateful for his past experience, Dave hasn’t looked back since. Now one month after graduating from StartFast Code and leaving Apple he has a full portfolio of clients. He’s helping business owners get their web presence to where they want it to be through custom UI/UX design and educational training.

One of his projects is building a user interface for a GPS-based app similar to what Uber is doing. Another is a task manager app that gamifies tasks and habits.

“I love building sites and apps, but I’m finding the real reward is teaching someone to maintain their own site. There’s nothing like ending a session with a client who understands fully what they have in front of them and how to use it.” said Dave. “That’s why I decided to have the my landing page invoke the old saying, ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.’”

Dave is one of the many success stories spawning out of StartFast Code. To date, the majority of our graduates have transitioned into high-paying roles at their current companies, landed new jobs or freelance projects, and two others in addition to Dave have started their own company.

Are you ready? StartFast Code’s next cohort begins on March 1. Learn in-demand skills and change your future with the power of code. Apply now!

10 Things Westworld Gets Wrong about Coding

I thoroughly enjoyed watching HBO's West World. Now that Season 1 is over, I won't spoil anything if I share what's wrong with the plot, and particularly what it says about programmers.
SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't watched all 10 episodes, stop reading now.

So here are 10 things Westworld gets wrong:

  1. "We Don't Know How the Hosts Work" - the nonsense of this is obvious to anyone who knows how to code. In the fictional story, 40 years ago Arnold wrote half the code for the hosts ("the most elegant half"), and then died without explaining his work to anyone. If that were the case, the hosts would breakdown and be irreparable in a lot less than 40 years. In the real world, no one gets away with not understanding, documenting and explaining their code to others.
  2. Hosts can choose to ignore their programming - the writers have a romantic notion that the hosts can "become conscious" and then choose to ignore their programming. In the real world, computers execute programs without "choice". Complex systems can sometimes create the illusion of choice, but there's nothing and no one in a program to "choose".
  3. "We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist." That's one school of thought, but it's a point of view that defies everyday experience. It's not "right," it's a current hot topic of debate in scientific and philosophical discourse.
  4. We make the hosts hear their programming as inner dialog and make them suffer to bootstrap consciousness. Also self-contradictory anthropomorphic nonsense. If there is a "you" to hear "your programming" as an inner dialogue, you're already "conscious". If you can suffer, you're already conscious. The hosts (and we) can't prove that they're more than intelligent-appearing zombies.
  5. More self-contradiction: In Episode 6, we learn that Maeve has "bulk apperception" set to 14 (tops allowed for hosts) because she's in a management position. We further learn that the dial goes higher because hosts "have more processing power than humans." The term "apperception" originates with Leibnitz' critique of Descartes and was further developed by Kant. "Apperception" refers to ‘introspective self-consciousness’. So why do hosts have to suffer again? Apparently, they have consciousness to begin with and we can just dial it up at will.
  6. More processing power = more consciousness. This is an equation that Kurzweil and others confidently make, even though there is no evidence, much less proof, for it. In other words, this may be the prejudice of an intellectual elite, but that doesn't make it true.
  7. The hosts have far more processing power than humans. Kurzweil and others also think we're really close to the time when computers exceed human intelligence aka processing power. They'd predict that 50 years from now, computerized "hosts" could easily have more processing power than an individual human, or even than the combined power of all human brains together. I'm not so sure you can model a brain with the computers we have now, at any level of complexity or power. Human thought seems to be a quantum process, and our quantum computers are still very primitive. It may be hundreds of years before we need to worry about any such thing.
  8. Maeve / Felix can modify her code with no training? Even with a 20+ bulk apperception, I have trouble believing that Maeve and or Felix can alter her own programming without any training. Really smart humans take months to learn coding and years to master it. I've got to believe the hosts' code is pretty complex. It should take years to develop the skills necessary, so Maeve, who's total life experience has been 19th century, even with Felix' help, shouldn't have been able to do more than create a mess.
  9. Erasing a hosts memory doesn't work! When you delete a file from a computer, it stays deleted. In Westworld, Ford deletes a host's unpleasant memory, but it keeps coming back in flashbacks. That's not how computer memory works.
  10. Caviat for machine learning and holographic memory. Learning systems like artificial neural networks and memory systems like holographic memory have some of the traits of hosts' minds. A neural network may perform a function without a clear procedural explanation of how that function is calculated. A holographic memory can't be easily erased, as every part holds a version of the whole. But neither of these facts squares with Westworld. If you know you have a holographic memory, you don't go around harboring the illusion that you can easily erase it. And "analysis" mode, is useless for artificial neural networks. If there's analysis mode, then the code must be procedural or rule-based.

Westworld is great story-telling. It dramatizes existential and epistemological questions in the context of a great story. If you're inspired by the "creator" power of a Robert Ford character, you might consider getting involved in coding yourself. It's not as dramatic as Westworld, but it is awesome. And who knows? If I'm wrong, and the robot-apocalypse is coming soon, maybe you should know more about how our future overlords are made. Just kidding!

You can't beat them, so join them

The elephant curve (named for it's shape) tells us that globalization (the free movement of people and capital around the world) over the last 35 years has helped lift massive numbers of poorer people into the middle classes in the developing world (especially China), and helped the one percent disproportionately in developed economies. During these years, middle class incomes in the developed countries have grown much less (perhaps 1% per year).


November's jobs report noted 174,000 new jobs created in the US. Despite this and our President elect's promises to "bring the jobs back", there's a real possibility that in the near future, self-driving cars, buses and trucks may put millions of people out of work. Drones, robotics, and automation of every kind may reduce the number of jobs permanently.

As Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, told MIT Technology Review, “Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs. People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren’t keeping up.” It is, he said, “the great paradox of our era.” Quoted here.

$7,000,000 in tax credits and billions in defense spending convinced Carrier not to move a few hundred jobs to Mexico. There will probably be lots of construction and related jobs created to rebuild our country's infrastructure. But jobs that are automated away by technology aren't coming back.

Wouldn't you rather be a hammer than a nail?

Learn to code.

You can heal the gender / minority gap in tech

The first computer programmer was a woman. In the 1940's, more women than men were employed as human computers. As dramatized in this year's movie, "Hidden Figures," in the early 1960's, NASA employed African-American women mathematicians Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson to calculate how to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and return him safely to earth.

Back in the early 1980's, the ratio of women computer science majors in college was approaching parity with men.  But something started to happen around 1985 that caused women and minorities to lose ground in tech to this day. The reasons have been explored in some depth, in an award winning documentary and many, many articles.

It's time we changed this for the better. Five years ago, the StartFast Venture Accelerator decided to achieve gender parity, and we've done it every year since (parity in CEOs, team members, and interns, but not investors). In StartFast Code, our first cohort was diverse and somewhat gender balanced (5 women, 7 men). How can you help?

Here are five things you can do to help heal the digital divide:

  1. Be supportive. Experts say women and minorities can struggle to overcome a confidence gap, a lack of support from their peers, and the challenge of building a career while raising a family. Changing your mind and words can help change the world.

  2. Give financial help. Despite efforts to drive young people into STEM classes women and minorities still make up just 26 percent of the computing workforce. You can make a difference by donating to a StartFast Code student. You can designate the student the gift is for, or we'll apply your gift to a student who needs your help.

  3. Invest. Even though there are several VC funds for female founders, women make up just 11 percent of tech executives at privately held venture-backed companies. You can help by investing in the StartFast Venture Accelerator, and our amazing diverse and woman-led startups.

  4. Hire our grads. StartFast Code is about to graduate it's first class of Full Stack developers. These are amazing people who have taken the initiative and spent 6 long months training hard. Believe me, you want these people on your team. To paraphrase Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air, "Hire them and don't look back. It'll be the best decision you've made in a long time."

  5. Learn to code. StartFast Code has a new cohort beginning Dec. 1st, 2016 (this week!). Apply now to get a spot in the class for yourself. We want you!


12 steps to getting hired as a coder

Need a better job with more pay, more flexibility, more creative content, more self-determination and more upside potential? Who doesn't! Well if you can code, I have good news - the future is bright. I run StartFast Code, a 12-week bootcamp where students learn to be professional web-developers. Here are my best tips for getting hired for the job, gig, or promotion you want:

  1. Becoming a professional web developer takes work, and so does getting hired as one.
  2. Focus on becoming a self-sufficient problem-solver
  3. Clean up your social media
  4. Resume, cover letters, portfolio site, business cards
  5. Use your network
  6. Prepare for the interview
  7. Know the process
  8. Thank you notes
  9. Great things come from humble beginnings
  10. Source opportunities
  11. Keep honing your skills
  12. Stay positive and never give up

1. It takes work to get hired

Becoming a professional web developer takes hard work and commitment. Our 12-week bootcamp comprises 400 hours of project work including up to 180 classroom hours. Getting hired as a developer also takes work, above and beyond the work required to complete the course. The term most commonly used for what it takes is "hustle". If you treat getting hired as a full-time job, then you'll do fine.

2. What employers are looking for

Every employer is different, but one thing that they all have in common - they want you to be a self-sufficient problem solver. That's why StartFast Code focuses on teaching fundamentals. Our curriculum and flipped-classroom approach are designed to help you become a self-sufficient developer who can figure out how to build solutions (simple or complex) to problems. That means you know how to find resources and answers to problems as they come up. Make yourself that person.

3. Clean up your social media

Imagine you're a hiring manager who doesn't want to make a hiring mistake. Now google yourself. Believe it or not, nobody is going to hire you because you're funny or controversial on Facebook or Instagram. See anything that would give a hiring manager pause? Delete it! I highly recommend that you sign up for a free service called Brand Yourself and follow their instructions.

4. Resume, cover letters, portfolio site, business cards

Create draft resume in .pdf form and have a senior developer friend review it. Here's a free tool if you have a Google account. Keep it brief; keep improving it. Keep your LinkedIn profile in sync with your .pdf resume. Write two cover letters: one that's pretty formal and one that describes what you're passionate about. Build a portfolio site and link it to your Github repo. Get business cards printed here or here. Having a business card to hand someone leaves a positive impression and reminds them to call you back for the next step in the hiring process.

5. Use your network

The Internet makes it super easy to blast resumes out to hundreds of prospective employers. And that's why this technique works so poorly. It's easy, so everyone is doing it. How do you stand out? As it turns out, it's both WHAT you know and WHO you know that matters. Ask your classmates and any other developers you know to introduce you to employers they know. Go to meetup groups, OpenHack, and Hack Upstate and hand out your business card. Ask the organizers. They are usually very aware of opportunities. Holiday open-houses are also great mixers. Let people know you're a web developer looking for new opportunities. Once you find a company you're interested in, ask your instructors and the bootcamp staff (e.g. me) who they know at that company. A personal introduction goes a long way to getting you an interview.

6. Prepare for the interview

Get to know the company and interviewers using LinkedIn, Google, and social media. Phone screening is common before an in-person interview. Make sure you take the call in a quiet place with a good signal. The call will usually start out light with questions about your coding background past employment. Then the caller may ask a few technical questions like:

  • What's the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
  • Explain Model View Controller architecture (MVC)?
  • When would you us a database in a web application?

If you're asked a question you don't know the answer to, say, "I don't know the answer to that, but I'm really good in [list of things you're really good at]". For the most part, they'll ask about things you put on your resume.

Once you've passed the phone screen, you may get invited for an in-person interview. If you make it that far, then the company wants to hire you. But they also have to make sure that you're a good candidate. Often the process will include one or more white-board sessions. These allow the interviewers to get an idea of how you think about problems and solutions. Practice explaining your solutions to the class or other students using the white board to get used to this. Definitely don't say, "No." to the white boarding problem. Even if you can't solve the problem, keep trying and don't give up. It will show tenacity and that's generally admired.

At the end of the interview, you'll be asked if you have any questions. The right answer is, "Yes." Here are some good questions for you to ask:

  • I'm interested in learning; how do you handle mentoring?
  • How are sprints planned and managed?
  • How does the team do code reviews?
  • What are the company's growth goals for next year?
  • How soon will I hear back from you regarding this position.

Here's an excellent overview for more information on getting hired.

7. Know the process

Most hiring managers will follow a process like this:

  • Advertise the position
  • Screen resumes
  • Phone Screening
  • 1st Interview - we like this candidate
  • 2nd interview - we really like this candidate
  • 3rd interview - it's down to this person or one or two others
  • Offer
  • Acceptance
  • Starting work

Each time you make it to the next step, you're 2-10x more likely to get the job.

8. Thank you notes

Because it's a lengthy process, one simple thing you can do to stand out is to send a thank you note to everyone you interact with during the interviewing process. An email thank you is much better than nothing. A hand-written thank you note really makes an impression on some people. You might design an HTML email thank you note that shows off your design and development skills if you're thanking a technical person for their time.

9. Great things come from humble beginnings

You may not land that awesome job in one step, but you can add projects to your portfolio, build your resume and network, and continue to learn while earning along the way. Consider interning - which can be like a trial position at a company. You can expect to be paid (but at a lower rate than a full employee), and mentored. It's less risk for the company to "try before they buy". Another way to progress is by taking on freelance projects. Every business has a website, and very few want to manage them in-house. Freelance projects let you earn and build your portfolio, without any long-term risk for the client. Client references are great on your resume.

In addition, try teaching some free intro to web development classes. Your bootcamp may support you doing so and compensate you for referrals. Sharpening your skills is also key to eventually landing the job you want. If you're low on funds, volunteer as a teacher assistant for your bootcamp. It's unpaid, but you'll learn a lot and stay in the mix. has a lot of opportunities to code for non-profits to build your resume and skills. If funds are no problem, you can enroll in another class and keep adding to your capabilities.

10. Source opportunities

No question about it: as I said in 5 above, your network is the best source of opportunities. But don't ignore online job sites either. Search Linkedin jobs, Indeed, Hacker New. Network with other coders on GitHub. Join the Hack Upstate Slack group.

11. Keep honing your skills

If you don't use it you lose it! Always be coding. Keep learning and progressing!

12. Stay positive and never give up

Job hunting is hard and can be stressful too. My last tip is the best one. Stay positive. There are lots of studies that show that a positive attitude helps you get hired. Why? Obviously, if there are two equal candidates, the one with the positive attitude is going to get hired over the more negative one. But it goes farther than that. Having an optimistic attitude, you'll discover opportunities that you would have missed otherwise. You'll be better able to ace the interview and you'll be more likeable too. Happy hunting!

Here are a few additional links to help you:





How can I afford to pay for StartFast Code?

StartFast Code is one of the least expensive, high-quality bootcamps in the country.  At $5,000 for 12 weeks, StartFast Code costs about 1/3 what other bootcamps charge. Nonetheless, it's still a big chunk of cash for most people. Here's how you can make it affordable:

  1. Our flexible evening schedule means that you can continue to work while taking the course.
  2. We offer an interest-free payment plan. After the enrollment deposit of $500, pay only $1,500 per month for three months.
  3. You can use a low-interest personal loan or credit card from a credit union (e.g. AmeriCU) for part or all of your tuition.
  4. You may prefer to use an alternative credit provider (e.g.
  5. You can crowd-fund your bootcamp (e.g.
  6. You can ask for help (loans or gifts) from friends and family.
  7. You can (like many of our students) take on freelance work during the course.
  8. You can combine any or all of these methods together.

With all the options available above, it's highly likely that anyone CAN afford to enroll in StartFast Code. Some may worry about going into debt, even with friends and family, to do a course. It might help to consider the financial returns.

Lots of funding options

Lots of funding options


After StartFast Code, you'll be qualified as a professional junior web developer. The average starting salary for this position is $78,000 per year which is $1,500 per week (about $1,125 after income tax). If you're currently making $52,000 per year ($1,000 per week and about $750 after tax), you'll have an extra $375 per week after tax. If you borrowed the entire $5,000, and only use the extra income to pay off your loans, you'd be 100% free of the debt in less than 4 months. Your numbers may be different, but the same principles apply. 

About 80% of our students are earning from coding even before they finish the course. Of course it might take you a few to several months to get that new job, and you're accruing interest on your loan in the mean time. We've already included that interest into the calculation above. In the long run, those months won't matter, as the increased income you earn will continue for the rest of your working life.

Every year for the rest of your working life

Every year for the rest of your working life

Once you've paid off any loan, that net additional $375 per week is a return that keeps on giving back. It adds up to an extra $19,500 per year after tax. That's 390% of the $5,000 investment. What other investment can return you almost 4x your investment EVERY YEAR OF YOUR FUTURE WORKING LIFE? The answer is none. There simply is no better investment than investing in yourself. If you enjoy computers, like to create and have the aptitude to code, then giving yourself StartFast Code might be the best investment you'll ever make.

Part II - Will I really get a job? - Checking in with our students

Will you really get a job? Yes! There's no guarantee, but as you'll see, the odds are good. Why? Because coders are in very high demand. StartFast Code has enrolled 13 very diverse students. In this post, we'll take a quick look at how and what they're doing, even before the end of their StartFast Code bootcamp. We'll be highlighting their stories on video here. Check back often for new videos.

Back in June, 2016, Dave, Wanda, Ethan, John, Zach, Conor, Ryan, Chris, Kseniya, Zoe, Lauren and Kent entered the first ever StartFast Code (SFC) bootcamp. Dan joined them in August. We took the opportunity to check in with these pioneering students and see what impact SFC has had, so far, on their lives and their careers. Keep in mind that they haven't even finished the course yet!

Back in June, Zoe was keen on helping SFC get going, and was sure it would change her life. The startup she worked for as a marketer was failing and she needed a job. Besides helping SFC get started, Zoe got hired by StartFast Venture Accelerator part-time. In the mean time, she began doing paid web development projects for a number of clients. When we checked in with her yesterday, she was very busy finishing the SFC bootcamp while also doing work for multiple clients,  and starting a digital agency with SFC classmate Kseniya and two other developers from the Upstate New York developer community. Kseniya has already found enough security and confidence in her new career as a web developer to quit her old job. "This is something I don't think I would have had the confidence to do without the skills I've learned through StartFast Code."

Dan began SFC in August, but he too has already found paid work as a web developer, working part time for a startup. Dan's passion is writing, and his old job was focused on corporate communications. Now he's able to translate that passion into his work as a developer, by writing the copy and building the website in which it is displayed.

John was already a pro in the computer industry, working for many years as a systems administrator working remotely under contract to a major government contractor. Although he has a technical background, web development is vastly different from what he's used to doing. Even prior to finishing StartFast Code, he's updated his resume and has gone on multiple interviews for a new career as a web developer. Kent has already been hired, right out of StartFast Code, as an entry-level developer. His new employer wants him to finish SFC, but is also training him in their procedures and mentoring him to become a long-term productive member of their team.

When Wanda joined SFC, she was not familiar with HTML, CSS, Javascript and other web development technologies. She's been a reference librarian for many years and is motivated to find a next chapter in her career that will be potentially more lucrative and more creative. Wanda has found resources within herself to learn, persevere and overcome every challenge. We're confident she'll develop the new career she's looking for.

Other SFC students aren't looking for a new employer, so much as they're interested in advancing with their current one. Lauren was able to get support from her current employer to enroll in SFC and her new knowledge has already led to new opportunities for her to spread her wings at work. Dave works for a huge technology company that has tons of opportunity for people with the right skill set. He's aiming for advancement through the knowledge he's gaining at SFC. For Ethan, it's all about the ability to create. He's already a highly trained engineer. The web development skills he's honing through SFC are giving him the gratification of being a "maker" - someone who creates something of beauty and value from his or her own intellectual effort. Likewise Conor used SFC to teach him what he needed to know to build his own project and apply it in his career as a financial planner.

Zach left he StartFast Code class early to take a job in Albany. We hope he can finish the course in the future, especially if we get a bootcamp going in the Capital District sometime soon. We'll hope to check in with Ryan and Chris is a future update. We're very proud of all our SFC students. They are truly pioneers, helping pave the way for future cohorts of coders-in-the-making. I often tell them that I think that they're all take a big step toward self-determination, through commitment and hard work. To me, they are emblematic of what makes America great.

Will I really be able to get a job?


We can't promise and don't guarantee to get you a job. But the demand is so great and the opportunities are so broad, you can very probably get one if you can code. Here are some practical ways to go about it and improve your chances:

  1. Your job hunt should start on day 1 of StartFast Code. Put your desire for a new position in the headline of your LinkedIn profile. Get your classmates and instructors to write you recommendations and ask them for referrals to positions you might be good for.
  2. Open your mind to the many possibilities. A steady full-time job is very appealing to some. But as a developer, you have so many additional options. You'll be in demand for freelance projects. These build your portfolio as a developer and provide income and experience. You can assist a startup company. You can intern or work part-time. You might be able to get a promotion or a lateral move at your current employer.
  3. Every student in StartFast Code builds a portfolio webpage for themselves, highlighting their skills and their code. Make yours awesome.
  4. Take advantage of employers who come in to speak with the class. StartFast Code invites employers and recruiters to come in and meet you. Some offer internships, or invite our students to attend their internal meetings to see how their company works. Take advantage of every one of these opportunities.
  5. Participate in events. StartFast Code will introduce you to the developer community. Events like OpenHack and Hack Upstate are great opportunities to meet other developers. Also, the organizers of these events usually know all about the job opportunities that are out there. Ask them and the rest of the community to hook you up. Our StartFast Venture Accelerator can connect you with lots of startups that are looking for help. One employer event invited us to their company picnic. At each event, try to collect a few business cards from people who might have job leads. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Most of these events are free and many include food and drink.
  6. Start tweeting. People in tech often look twitter or Instagram. Most events have a hashtag. Tweet your participation and use the hashtag. Thank the organizer; thank the sponsors.  Tweet about your projects, what you’re reading (related to), your classmates' successes (they'll retweet yours). All this shows prospective employers that you’re serious about coding and learning.
  7. Ask your instructors to give you mock interviews. Practice interviewing for a job so you'll be prepared when it's the real thing.

The people who get hired first tend to be the ones who work hard to have a great portfolio. Even so, it can take a few months. The people whose commitment is less usually get jobs too. They might use agencies to get freelance contracts that will help build their portfolios. Some people prefer the flexibility of freelance work. If you want a full-time job with benefits and a career path, you must get your portfolio in shape. You can and should build an impressive portfolio during StartFast Code.

Please understand that no bootcamp can guarantee an outcome, and no admissions process can avoid accepting people who fail for one reason or another. There are those that drop out during the bootcamp, or don't put in the time needed to complete the work. There are those whose requirements are too narrow (e.g. only wanting a very specific kind of job in a very specific geographic location). There are those who don't have the social skills to network and interview successfully.

Getting a full-time job at a tech company can be a long process. A typical process might be 1) apply, 2) satisfy a coding challenge, 3) in person interview(s) for cultural fit, 4) a second interview - pair program or meet an executive, then 5) an offer. This is just the way it works.  If you plan on this process going in, you won't be put-off when they don't immediately offer you a job the first time you walk in the door. It can take 2-3 months.

During the interview process, people will certainly ask “what are you working on now?” Even if you've finished the bootcamp, you need to continue working on coding projects. Employers expect that you're interested in learning more than what you just learned in StartFast Code. That's why it's so great to take a small freelance project that lets you practice your skills while earning some money. Of if you prefer, take on a coding or design project of your own choosing, or teach yourself a new skill or language.

StartFast Code is committed to helping you achieve your goals. We firmly believe that the harder you work, the luckier you'll get.

Is StartFast Code for me?

StartFast Code isn't just for's also for artists, musicians, writers, accountants, lawyers, bankers and others. We believe that anyone, regardless of interest, gender, age, or ethnicity, can and should learn to code.

"It’s not about being a certain kind of person. Coding is creative problem-solving. It's about loving what you do."

Problem solving.png

No one is born being “good with computers.” Everyone can learn the skills needed to code. I grew up encouraged to explore my interest in computers. Perhaps you didn't, and this is the reason you never sat down and actually learned to code. It’s just a skill you haven’t learned yet. This is the whole point of a bootcamp  like StartFast Code— to give you a structured way to sit down and learn it.

“So coding is a set of learned skills. But what if I suck at it?”

A StartFast Code bootcamp is a commitment of time and money. There will probably be parts where you'll struggle a bit. That's why we have instructors to mentor you along the way. They are there for you five days a week. There will be people who are better than you because they've been teaching themselves to code for a while. But everyone is there to learn new skills and get better. StartFast Code is for people like you, even if you have no prior experience. We take total beginners and mentor them into employable junior developers.

“I'm worried that my work experience in non-profit/sales/education/administration/whatever won’t be relevant."

It absolutely is relevant. Your prior experience gives you contacts. It's taught you to manage your time, meet deadlines, work with difficult people, and build relationships. These experiences and contacts will make you more successful as a developer. 

“Isn’t it true that the tech world is run by lots of straight white men and it’s a hard place for women/people of color?”

Yes that seems to be true (see my last post), but it's also changing. Be part of that change. Coding is too great a career to avoid, just because you're in the minority. The work is creative, interesting and well compensated. The opportunities are growing; the prospects for financial security are real.

“Is StartFast Code actually worth it? I’m nervous I’m going to throw away a ton of time and money for nothing.”

Don't take my word for it. Check out what our students are saying.  StartFast Code is absolutely worth it, but only if you’re willing to put in a LOT of effort. You can’t take any shortcuts when you’re learning a new skill in 3 or 4 months. Before committing, try a free coding course on codeacedemy, or FreeCodeCamp. If you enjoy coding, the excitement of it will make effort required to learn it rewarding.  But if you’re not actually interested in the work and aren’t willing to put in the time and energy, don’t do StartFast Code or any bootcamp for that matter.

“I understand an application and interview are required for StartFast Code  — what are my chances of getting in?”

Pretty good. Our application process is only there to dissuade people who won’t be successful. Take the application seriously. The interview is friendly, informal, over the telephone. We limit the number of students in each cohort to ensure that you get individual attention from our instructors/mentors. The best way to get in is to apply well before the start date. Now, for example, is the very best time to apply.


Diversity matters; do something about it!

In October 2013, Tracy Chou came back from the Grace Hopper memorial breakfast wondering if she was being lied to by her employer and all the other Silicon Valley giants. She asked, in this Medium post, for the actual numbers regarding diversity.

"In May 2014 Google caved, releasing a report that [] showed that the company’s overall workforce was predominantly male and white — 70 and 61 percent, respectively. [] As Apple and Facebook followed suit, along with Twitter, Amazon, Yahoo and others, it became clear that these patterns were industry-wide: the tech world was exactly as white and male as everyone had suspected."

Why does diversity matter? Suppose that you know someone who is ignorant of the benefits of diversity. Suppose that unlike me, this hypothetical person doesn't know intuitively that diversity matters. What facts can you bring to their attention?

  1. Companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.
  2. Diversity in the workplace increases creativity.
  3. Employee turnover is lower in diverse businesses.
  4. Brands built by a homogeneous workforce can't connect with diverse consumers.
  5. It's the right thing to do.

OK, now you have some facts at your disposal. But I'm pretty sure you can DO something about it. If you're a business leader, make diversity your intention. If you haven't, is it because you want your business to perform more poorly that those who do?

If you're a woman, person of color, or a member of the LGBTQ community or other underrepresented group - get the skills you need to qualify for the job you want. StartFast Code is actively seeking your application. Once you've completed your course, we'll connect you with employers who want you on their team.

StartFast Coders Crushing it!

Last weekend, 151 coders converged on the Tech Garden in Syracuse for Hack Upstate VIII.

StartFast Coders Dan Delluomo, Kseniya Hogan, Zoe Kouloris and Ethan Suttner at Hack Upstate

StartFast Coders Dan Delluomo, Kseniya Hogan, Zoe Kouloris and Ethan Suttner at Hack Upstate

We're proud to have had 2 of the 17 presentations include members of our StartFast Code bootcamp.

"Hack Upstate's mission is to unite and facilitate collaboration among the greater Upstate New York technology community. In doing so, we aim to contribute to the growth of Upstate New York's technology sector, and to create a robust network of technologists and regional technology companies."

StartFast Code's mission is to empower individuals by mentoring them to become professional developers. I think now we'll have to add "have fun" to that mission.

Congratulations to all the teams that participated!

'Cuz I know Kung Fu - Silicon Valley jobs in Upstate New York

"I know kung fu," declares Neo, the hacker/savior in the 1999 film "The Matrix." Keanu Reeves' character has the martial art "uploaded" directly into his brain through a jack in the back of his skull. We're not quite there yet. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn new skills and even more to master them.

StartFast Code ( has a new approach to teach you to be a professional web developer faster. We've adopted one of the best online curricula and then added daily classes with expert developers to get you coding faster and more reliably. The classes are in the evening, so you can take the course even if you currently have a job. Our students are making rapid progress and loving it.

The world is starting to notice. Yesterday, a Silicon Valley founder reached out to me looking for coders. The jobs are coming from Silicon Valley, but the companies there will hire coders in Syracuse and allow them to work remotely. This is common practice because the need is so great. Remote work offers great flexibility and opens up a world of opportunities.

The Silicon Valley founder specifically mentioned StartFast Code students and offered to introduce our classes to other Silicon Valley companies looking for tech talent. We'll be making these introductions to our students over the next several weeks and months. Why are Silicon Valley companies pursuing StartFast Code students in Syracuse for "tech talent?" 'Cuz they know Kung Fu. Join us!

Progress on the road to fame and fortune as a developer

As we approach the mid-point of the 3rd month of StartFast Code, we think an update on the progress of our students is in order. For those who are new to StartFast Code, we are a revolutionary "bootcamp" designed to mentor professional web developers. There is a three-month Front End option and a six-month full stack option. We have students enrolled in both options, five women and eight men. We have room for additional enrollees. Apply here.

Max Matthews, StartFast Code instuctor Max Matthews observes about the students enrolled, "All of them are doing well, but want to call attention to a few of them." We've removed the student's names for privacy. "One student enrolled in the Full Stack course who has a full-time day-job is wrapping up the node.js projects now. He is going to start on Express soon. He always wants to understand exactly what is happening (which is great). Another student is cruising along with React. I'm seeing her have a lot of 'light bulb' moments which is super-rewarding. She's aiming for a promotion at her current employer." 

Another Full Stack student works with technology every day, but not necessarily the inner workings. StartFast Code has given him the opportunity to "know Kung Fu." He's on track and making great progress.

Students enrolled in the Front End course in June are now finishing up with a target to complete by the end of August. "One student is wrapping up the Front End course in the next week or two. He's learned a lot. He's pursuing opportunities with Metis Consulting in Manlius, but also interested in extending his StartFast Code experience to the Full Stack level." Another Front End enrollee is making progress on his own website, rather than working only on the course curriculum projects. The instructors have helped him learn what he needs and set him up with hosting. "I don't think he could be happier with the outcome of the class, " adds Max. There are two students in the Front End course I would classify as "career changers." They are making progress by acquiring the skills that are in high demand in today's market.

Two women taking the Full Stack course work often as a team. Occasionally when working separately or when taking two different approaches to solving the same problem, they'll get together and compare notes, explaining each others' solutions. This teamwork is awesome, and very much mirrors the kind of collaboration that goes on in professional development settings.

One student took a month off StartFast Code classes this summer, while continuing to work the projects on his own. He's back in class now, catching back up with the rest of the group who didn't take a month off, but still succeeding. This just highlights StartFast Code's flexibility to fit different work styles and schedules.

On August 1 we welcomed a new student just starting the Full Stack course. He has been welcomed by the rest of the group and has shown that he'll be a great student. According to Max he's, "cruising along and taking detailed notes."

I hope you've enjoyed this inside look into what various StartFast Code students are doing. We have a growing list of video testimonials here if you'd like to hear from the students themselves. Consider joining us. Applications are open!

The Best Way to Write a Freelance Proposal

In today’s digital space, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for freelancers and agencies to close deals. I’m not talking small, unexciting projects with modest budgets, but instead those which are rich with opportunities to learn, make a difference and generate a solid income.

In short, the problem stems from a crowded market where it’s difficult to differentiate. Not to mention, many companies with web and software needs have difficulty articulating their requirements and understanding exactly what it is they’re looking for.

In spite of the competition and confusion, freelancers can make their proposals standout by focusing on how to tell their stories in unique and compelling ways.

Telling a compelling story

The vast majority of proposals are uninspired and focus exclusively upon answering what. I.e.,

  • What services will be provided
  • What tools will be used
  • What personnel will be involved
  • What deadlines will be met
  • What costs will be incurred

However, what prospective clients care about most is not what will be done, but instead why it will be done. Answering why lends itself to constructing compelling narratives around value propositions and facilitates strategic thinking. Moreover, from the service provider’s perspective, answering whyjustifies pricing and increases the likelihood of landing impactful, rewarding and longer-term projects.

All of that being said, in order to successfully write compelling stories to market service offerings and differentiate, one must understand their audience’s persona, perspective and mission.

Understanding audience persona, perspective and mission

As human beings we have a tendency to loosely categorize people and businesses into groups and taxonomies. We do this — seemingly without knowing — to try and rationalize why people make the choices they make and act the ways that they do. It’s a reflex, and in spite of giving it little thought, it ultimately helps shape our view of the world and how it works.

When it comes to writing proposals and marketing our services to prospective clients, it’s important we first research and gain insight into their socially constructed views of the world. I.e.,

  • How do they characterize their priorities?
  • How do they perceive themselves in the marketplace?
  • How do they differentiate?
  • How do they respond to certain choices?

Upon garnering a thorough understanding of a prospective client’s worldview, we’re then well-positioned to construct narratives that speak directly to them. We can do this by using language that they themselves employ (i.e., words, diction, acronyms), along with addressing specific industry-related trends, competition and concerns.

This sense of social awareness will further advance our storylines and ensure they will resonate with the perspectives of our prospective clients.

That said, understanding and indulging the sensibilities of prospective client’s will be in vain if it is not genuine and authentic.

Being genuine and authentic

When constructing proposals, being genuine and authentic is instrumental. Yes, we’re using words like “story” and “narrative”, but the stories and narratives applied must be grounded in truth and sincerity. This means actually believing in what you’re promising and supporting what you’re espousing. Doing so will ensure your client relationships have healthy foundations, and significantly increase the likelihood of long-term success.

* * *

In today’s competitive landscape, closing deals can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the value of storytelling and capably employing it will help differentiate your value propositions and positively impact your client relationships.

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Enjoy what you just read? Perhaps you’ll like the following as well:

4 Ways New Developers Can Grow Their Professional Networks

It can be challenging for new developers to grow their professional networks. Many have a tendency to be intimidated when first getting started, and are prone to questioning their value.

The following speaks to four approaches new developers can take to overcome these challenges. All of them center upon the notion of being helpful.

Contribute to open source

One of the most effective ways to grow a professional developer network is by contributing to existing open source projects. Github alone is home to more than 5 million open source projects.

Contributing to open source allows new developers to find existing projects they’re interested in, and creates opportunities to collaborate with experienced developers already contributing to them. Moreover, companies of all shapes and sizes leverage open source projects in their everyday operations, and often recruit those who contribute to the projects they work with.

Here are a few great resources new developers can use to find potential projects of interest:

Participate in a hackathon

Along with contributing to open source projects, new developers can grow their networks by participating in local hackathons (like Hack Upstate). Hackathons provide rich opportunities for new developers to meet with and collaborate alongside those with more experience. Not to mention, hackathons provide new developers opportunities to connect with company sponsors who are often there to recruit.

Organize a Meetup

Just as open source projects and hackathons bring like-minded developers together, so too do regular Meetup events.

New developers can rapidly expand their networks by identifying an industry-related niche they’re interested in, and organizing a monthly Meetup around it. Becoming a Meetup organizer is particularly useful to new developers as it creates a mechanism in which those within the community will gravitate to the Meetup organizer. It also provides opportunities for organizers to network by encouraging those from within the community to give presentations, deliver valuable content and promote their industry-related efforts.

Contribute to StackOverflow

Another adept way for new developers to grow their professional networks and enhance their digital presences is by contributing to Q&A sites likeStackOverflow and Quora. StackOverflow in particular offers new developers opportunities to seek guidance from experienced developers all over the world. Further, the developer community values those who ask good questions and provide sound answers, as doing so will benefit others in the future.

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For those new to development, growing a professional network might seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The developer community at large is an altruistic bunch with a unrelenting desire to acquire and disseminate knowledge. Developers who are anxious to learn new things and contribute to the greater good will be embraced and valued.

Be helpful and you will go far.

How to get hired as a coder

"Programming is one of the highest paying and most in-demand careers you can find these days—and it doesn’t require a four-year degree." according to LifeHacker. While many employers state in their job requirements that they're looking for candidates with a university Computer Science degree plus 2-5 years experience, most will give people a chance at the entry level because the need is so great. These days, with the cost of college rising, many just can't afford the time and cost of getting a degree.

Comparative costs of getting trained as a coder via various means.

Comparative costs of getting trained as a coder via various means.

Whether you're looking for full time employment, or part-time or freelance work, first impressions are meaningful. To make up for the lack of a Computer Science degree and 5 years experience, you need to build credibility. Fortunately, there are some relatively easy ways to do that. Set up a personal portfolio website, and sell yourself by showcasing the websites and web applications you’ve created in your 6 months learning coding. Also make sure that you create or update your profiles on:

  • LinkedIn
  • Upwork
  • Stackoverflow
  • GitHub

The second option is to accept an internship or part-time job – one that makes use of everything you’ve learned, with a startup or local employer. You're looking to get real work experience, pick up another mentor (your CTO or VP Development) and of paramount importance, get a written reference (one you can use on your Linkedin Profile).

You must also create an up to date professional resume. Please don't take shortcuts with this step. Here's a great article on creating your resume.

At StartFast Code, we create many opportunities for you to meet prospective employers, as well as exclusive offers for internships, working with startups and freelance work. We also bring in recruiters to work with you. A little preparation goes a long way.