Thinking about joining GA Singapore’s Web Development Immersive? Here’s my review of General Assembly Singapore: the 2016 WDI syllabus, my thoughts on the class, and some statistics on the career prospects of the first batch of graduates.

I wish I’d had this information before I signed up and embarked on my 12-week 9-5pm crazy intensive coding bootcamp.

GA Singapore WDI Nov 2015 Instructor:

Sebastiaan Deckers • Instructor GA Singapore • Frontend Architect for hire Cofounders.sg • Worked at RedMart

Two weeks in, and my biggest take away is that the quality of your programming lessons depends largely on your instructor. And Seb (or @cbas), is- happily- one of the most experienced industry experts and effective instructors a complete newbie to coding could’ve asked for. It’s impossible not to be inspired by his enthusiasm for programming, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an engineer type who’s as fun and patient as him.

No surprise, he’s extremely opinionated about FEWD, but always reasonable. As you’ll see, in week 1 alone we learnt new and more efficient ways to do things with HTML, CSS and Javascript that aren’t even in the official General Assembly syllabus yet.

Cheryl, our TA, is also a great help around class. She’s always there to answer your questions and keep the classes awesome.

UPDATE 2016: Seb has moved on to bigger and greater things, though he still returns to inspire batches of GA students as a guest speaker.I am not familiar with the current WDI instructor, Jeremiah Alexander, but I have heard great things.

UPDATE 2017: A lot has changed since Batch 1: the instructor is now Jeremiah Alexander (while Seb has moved on to even more exciting things, like getting married!), classes are now held at Spacemob (Claymore Hill, Orchard) instead of The Working Capitol (Keong Saik Road). While I still return occasionally to offer advice to current students about transitioning from GA to a full-time dev as while as industry experience, recent TA of Batch 7 Nick Ang would have a much better idea of current class conditions. You should read his excellent review of WDI too and contact him there.

Want to know what I needed to do to secure a job as a junior web developer at a local startup after General Assembly? Read about my how I secured my first junior web developer job at a local startup, two months after GA Singapore Web Development Immersive.

If you’d like to get in touch with me to ask me about General Assembly and working in the Singapore tech industry, please contact me via LinkedInfacebook, or the contact form below. I’ve loved hearing from many of you, even if it’s to say you found this post useful.


Before Your Course

IDA TIP Subsidy

Singaporean citizens  applying for WDI will receive a 70% subsidy from IDA for General Assembly courses . Out of the $11,500 GA requires, you’ll only have to pay $3450 before the course starts, no paperwork required.

There are non-citizens who do pay the full course fees (which are still cheapest amongst GA courses in the world), and they still think it’s worth it. If you’re serious about upgrading your skills and committing to a career in programming, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. If you’re into iOS development more than web, make for Makeschool instead.

Do you enjoy coding?

12 weeks and $3450 is a lot to commit to for someone without the luxury of time or money. If you’d like to see if coding is for you (and get some head-start on the course), I personally found Codecademy’s free HTML & CSS online course invaluable. Bonus points if you complete their Javascript course. The courses are code-alongs for people who learn through reading. If you prefer learning through video lectures, Treehouse is quality.

What computer should I use?

GA allows you to use any laptop, but your life will be easier if you use what the instructor is using, which is probably one of the Macbooks or a linux machine. It is possible to use a Windows laptop (even without a virtual machine) but you’ll have to figure out how to install software and Microsoft-specific command line instructions on your own. I found a second-hand Macbook Air with a battery cycle count of 60 on Carousell for $560 (WHUT you jelly bro?); YMMV.

What will you learn?

You will learn skills that employers will need and you will have a portfolio of projects that you can be proud of. For more details, see the 2016 General Assembly Singapore curriculum.

HTML, CSS and Javascript

By Day 3, we were learning to clone existing sites but with flex box instead of old, lumbering floats. Check out my team’s clone of 9GAG:

9GAGAG
9GAGAG (Github repo)

The morning was usually a practical exercise, like create a landing page with parallax effect, or create a price comparison table, or use Regex to evaluate a user’s input into a form client-side (and display an alert or success message in response).

This would be followed by a intensive lesson from the instructor, often bookended with illustrious guest speakers from the industry, sharing their wisdom on everything from test-driven development to pimping your terminal and development environment to career advice.

Every few weeks, you’ll take a week off class to work full time on a project with your classmates as team members. There are some guidelines but it is up to you to determine what kind of project you want in your portfolio. Build things you care about, because obviously you’re going to work harder on them, even after the week is up, but if you’re looking for ideas, try things out you think you’d want to work on after. Employers loved hearing about my Ruby on Rails and ReactJS projects.

Here is my first project built entirely from scratch, a game called Rainbow Rex (Github repo). It’s even been ported to the Google Play store for Android!

Frameworks

What frameworks you learn will depend on the class and the instructor.

My batch learnt MongoDB, Express and NodeJS, but the following batch spent nearly 6 weeks on Ruby on Rails, with one week each on Angular2, Sails JS and ReactJS. I wouldn’t put much weight on this, you are a web developer, not a ReactJS programmer. The sooner you get used to picking things up, the better your career prospects. The fundamentals of programming matter most, everything else can be picked up and much is syntactic sugar.

Assessment

There are no grades, only 1-on-1s with your instructor and GA staff, to provide mutual feedback and career advice. For example, my instructor told two students in my batch that they could command senior developer salaries given their skill.

Your instructor will generously go through your code and provide relevant feedback. Check out @cbas providing a code review on my Github repo for my (first) Tic Tac Toe game.

t3reborn

No one will force you to work or tell you to catch up. There’s a lot of self-learning involved and coding continues even after class.

University without grades or bureaucracy- this is either a magical paradise, or hell if you like structure and enforced discipline. Don’t expect worksheets/tutorials/exams, a syllabus before-hand, or for anyone to monitor if you’ve understood the concepts or have attained certain competencies.

Will you get a job?

Employers will grant you interviews on the basis of your portfolio even without an engineering degree or past programming work experience.

General Assembly Singapore organises a career meet and greet, where you’ll set up a booth and nearly 200 employers will visit you. This is an awesome way to line up a whole bunch of interviews, and was how I found my job. Employers there included: Autodesk, ThoughtWorks, Huge Inc., IDA, SPH, Lazada, Zalora, Visa, Dentsu Mobius, Glints, Possible, MediaCorp, Oddle, buUuk, Expedia, etc.

I found work immediately freelancing for a digital agency (Wunderman/ Comwerks) and eventually working as a (junior) front-end developer with a startup that I’ve followed and admired for a long time, working with some of the best people in the industry, ReferralCandy. In my first week, everyone in the company introduced me to what they do and gave me access to the code base to add myself to the team About page. In my second week, I started building a website redesign. I couldn’t be happier. My classmate, Min Ong (@ongmin), made the news for her General Assembly career transition. From a later batch, Gabrielle Ong made the news again in the Straits Time for her GA experience, not once, but twice (now working as Junior Engineer at TradeGecko).

People with absolute no prior experience have found work in the 2-3k range (first 3 months), while the more experienced ones are earning $4k+ right away. Some have negotiated 4 day work weeks, others work remote and freelance. The younger students found work more easily in places like ThoughtWorks, 99.co, ReferralCandy and Paula’s Choice.

In my batch, some seemed to struggle committing to the course full time, possibly because of prior work and family commitments. As a result, they may not have gained as much from the course and this was reflected in their portfolio and their job offers. GA is no fairytale magic potion: startups are more likely to hire someone younger if both of you have the same level of prior experience. Nevertheless, there is enough demand out there for everyone to find meaningful, well-paying work.

2 weeks in and it was already been an incredible experience. I felt confident enough to join my first hackathon (UP Singapore’s Social Innovators Hackathon) and won best design at the hackathon $$$. If you can keep up with the lessons, you will have real marketable skills.

Remember: if you’d like to get in touch with me or a current General Assembly Singapore WDI student, please contact me via LinkedInfacebook, or this contact form.

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