Tealeaf Academy Review

Tealeaf Academy Review

I recently finished the last lesson of the last week of the last course of Tealeaf Academy. I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with anyone thinking about doing a Ruby on Rails bootcamp.

First a little bit about the structure of Tealeaf Academy. There are three courses. Course 1 - “Introduction to Ruby and Web Development”, Course 2 - “Rapid Development with Ruby on Rails”, and Course 3 - “Build Robust and Production Quality Applications”. I took all 3 courses in succession and I would recommend doing it that way if you are a beginner, even if you know another language like python or a little ruby.

Ok, now a little bit about my story. I think my story is pretty similar to a lot of you that may be looking for a bootcamp. I’ve been messing with computers and “coding” since I was a kid. I thought I was cool because I could write some HTML and CSS. I could build some websites for people that looked pretty, but I couldn’t really add that much functionality to them. I needed to look for a plugin or script to do everything for me. None of them did exactly what I wanted them too, and there’s nothing I could really do about it except hope someone else did it and released it for free.

I had a bunch of ideas for projects I wanted to make and I decided that I was going to teach myself how to program. I went through some basic free tutorials (codeacademy, etc.) and learned some JavaScript and PHP. I took a free MOOC on python and made some games. None of it went deep enough though, I didn’t really feel any different than when I taught myself HTML. I could do some little tricks, but I still couldn’t build a real, working application, and I certainly didn’t understand why or how any of what I was doing worked.

So, at this point I started looking into bootcamps. I was really drawn to the bootcamp model because it was total immersion in the language and it took you from little knowledge to full-fledged developer.

The first thing I noticed was the time and monetary commitment necessary to do one of these bootcamps. I work full-time, not as a programmer. I’m newly married. I don’t live in SF or NYC. I don’t have a house I can get a second mortgage on to afford one of these. I didn’t really fit the in-person bootcamp model.

So I decided to look into online bootcamps because I didn’t need to quit my job, move half way across the country, or pay a crazy amount of money. I was really between Bloc and Tealeaf Academy. Both of them are great, but I think Tealeaf really fit my learning style and personality a lot better.

Tealeaf, first of all, is the most reasonably priced bootcamp, in my opinion. Because they offer their material split up into 3 different courses, you don’t have to pay one huge lump sum all at once, like you would have to with a lot of in-person bootcamps. So, you can try out the first, 4-week course for a very reasonable amount of money to see if it’s for you. Plus, they’re not out to cheat you. If you try it and it doesn’t work for you, they’ll give you your money back. Also, you pay a flat fee for lifetime access to the courses, not a monthly fee like other online bootcamps. So, if something comes up and you can’t do class for 2 months, you’re not out any more money, and you can jump back in when it works for you.

Second, the way they approach the subject matter is unique, but makes the most sense to me. Instead of introducing you to a very superficial level of a bunch of different web technologies, Tealeaf goes deep, VERY deep into Ruby on Rails. (Makes sense, since it’s a Rails course, doesn’t it?)

Let me explain a little more about how they teach. Tealeaf doesn’t just teach you how to follow Rails conventions to make an application (although they do teach you the conventions and why they are the conventions). They teach you how to bend Rails to your will to make it do what you want. They teach you the Ruby behind the way Rails “magically” does things. They teach how to build the functionality you want, instead of copy and pasting gems in. For example, we build our own authentication system from scratch, complete with password resets.

Why is this important? One of the main reasons I wanted to do a bootcamp was to learn how to build anything I could dream up. That is exactly what Tealeaf taught me.

Another key difference for Tealeaf is that they have a set curriculum of applications you build. A lot of other bootcamps have you build a couple projects and then select a “Capstone” project to work on. I like the way Tealeaf does it because I trust the instructors to pick applications that will cover all the skills I am going to need much more than I trust myself. Also, since the instructors have done these projects a few times, they know all the “gotchas” that you are going to run into, making support much faster. Also, all the other students in you cohort are working on the same projects, so it makes for a much more lively community and shared experience, something you might expect to be missing in an online bootcamp.

The final key point of Tealeaf that I loved was that it was completely self-paced. Course 1 and course 2 are both split into 4 “weeks” (you can take as little or as much time as you need on each week), while course 3 is split into 8 “weeks”. Each of those “weeks” is self-contained. What I mean is that if you take 2 days to do one of those “weeks”, that’s completely fine. If you take 2 weeks, that’s fine too, the people in the discussion boards will be people working on the exact same thing you are, even if you “fall behind” some other people or “jump ahead” others. And the TAs and instructors are in all of them, waiting to pounce on any question you may have. Seriously, I don’t know if I’ve had a question that went unresolved for more than 30 minutes. And that’s not even including live sessions and office hours.

In Course 1 I learned more in 4 weeks than I had trying to teach myself in the previous year. In Course 2 I learned a lot more than in Course 1. In Course 3, I learned more than Course 1 and Course 2 combined, times a thousand. Seriously, the amount and depth of material covered in the final course is amazing. Take a look at this list of things covered in the 3rd course - http://www.gotealeaf.com/curriculum#!production-apps. And we didn’t just skim over each thing listed, we went into depth on each one.

Looking at job postings for mid to even some upper level Ruby on Rails developers, I think I can confidentially say, “Yes I know how to do that” thanks to the training I got at Tealeaf Academy. Now it’s just time for me to get some real world experience before I can get one of those jobs.

The best first step after completing the course is to build your own project, deploy it, and get people to use it. This way you have something very tangible to show to a potential employer that you built completely on your own. As one of the Tealeaf founder’s Chris Lee says, “When you go out and look for a job, no technologies listed will be more impressive than: ‘Here’s the URL of a product I built that others use and rely on.’”

And Tealeaf Academy has given me all the skills I need to take just about any idea I have and turn it into a real, deployable application.

Do yourself a favor, do a lot of research before committing to any one bootcamp. I did, and I think it paid off when I decided to do Tealeaf. I’m extremely confident in my abilities now and don’t doubt I will have a new job in my new career soon!