Chris Castiglione Teacher at One Month. Faculty at Columbia University where I teach Digital Literacy. I write about coding, the internet, and social impact.

My Honest Review of Fullstack Academy

15 min read

Buddy Galletti is One Month alumni turned FullStack Academy student. He’s currently enrolled in their 24 week online Bootcamp where he’s learning Node.js, JavaScript, and React. In this Learn to Code Podcast interview, Buddy shares with us an honest review of Fullstack Academy, as well as his journey learning to code from his career in book publishing to a developer. 

In this episode we discuss: 

  • What is a coding bootcamp?
  • What coding languages does Fullstack Academy teach and why?
  • What is the day-to-day work life of a coding bootcamp student?
  • Does Fullstack Academy help you get a job?
  • How hard is it to get into Fullstack Academy?
  • How much is Fullstack Academy?

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What are you learning at Fullstack Academy?

Buddy Galletti: The first four weeks they say is kind of like the fundamentals of coding, but we’ve been doing strictly JavaScript right now. And then we’re going to touch on a little bit of HTML, CSS, and then we’re going to go into learning React.Js which I know nothing about, to be honest. I’ve heard scary things about it, to be honest. It just is hard to learn.

But I’m hoping, with all the work that we’re doing so far, it’ll be okay. We’ve been learning, basically, we started really easy, all the different data value types. What’s a string, what’s a number, all these different things. And then we started talking about loops and control flow, which is really cool.

I guess I didn’t realize, control flow if you can visualize it, is basically the way your program runs in a linear fashion from top to bottom. There’s a reason they call it loops. It’s because the control flow will just loop back around. Or if you’re inside a four loop or something, and you’ve got to make sure you get out or whatever. And then even the little things like understanding what return does, versus like a console log.

Because I think that’s what you see like really early on and it’s so great, you know, like console log is so powerful and a really good teaching tool and then, but trying to distinguish that between what a return does? I didn’t even really get that until like, last week, where return would actually just replace the expression where you call the function.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. That makes a lot of sense. You sound like you know what we’re talking about now, man. You’ve got this down. It’s cool.

It’s cool to see, because like you started with us and then you, I mean now you’re like deep into it. Now, you’re teaching it.

Buddy Galletti: That’s good. I’m so jealous of coding because it’s such a good model of education. There are so many things that I like about it that I wish mathematics education could emulate. Especially when it comes to what we do in Fullstack, which is called pair programming.

That’s where after every lecture, we’re in class for three hours but only an hour of it is a lecture. And then what we do is we break out into pairs where we share our computer screens and we work through problems.

The problems are meant to be hard. They’re meant for us to struggle. But it’s that productive struggle that I think is just so powerful when it comes to learning. I think it’s such a good model to follow. I wish math could do it. I’m sure there are ways.

Chris: I love that because the thing about coding is it gives you critical thinking skills because you just have to be solving problems and that is really what it is. But oftentimes, there’s not a map for how to get from point A to the next. You know where you are and then you know where you want to get and you kind of have to make the path.

And I think part of that is just all these different kinds of skills, which are honestly really hard to teach. It’s hard to teach the skills, but it makes sense to use coding and you just happen to learn the skills along the way.

Like, these kinds of critical problem-solving skills that apply to something. Like, apply to math. Honestly but also apply to you packing your luggage, girlfriends. It’s just like a way of debugging the world and I find it very useful. So yeah, I like that you’re saying that.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah. One thing they do is they use this cohort model where we have this group and you’re all in the lecture together and you’re meeting all these people and they really try to facilitate kind of that family atmosphere where you’re all in it together.

And it’s kind of funny because actually, I was listening to your podcast, the one on books one and I picked up that book ‘Ego is the Enemy’, and I started trying to do something that I learned from that book. I think it was a philosophy from Frank Tramock or something where it was like the plus-minus equals. Do you remember that?

Chris: No. Remind me, tell me about it.

Buddy Galletti: So it’s basically like if you really want to master something, some kind of a thing that you’re trying to learn, you want to surround yourself with people that know more than you. So your plus and minus are the people who maybe don’t know as much as you do, but you can try and teach them, so that really helps you learn. And then also just surrounding yourself with a bunch of people who are on the same level as you are.

Chris: Yes. I love that and I remember that now. And I think it gives this example of the guitar player from Metallica, I think it was Kurt Hammock and yeah, and it was the best story because it was, I’m going to try to do my best to remember, but it was more or less he was at the top of his game. He was basically in Metallica, yadda yadda yadda, like on TV, whatever. And yet, with the people in Metallica, it gave him the kind of like running a race, like you were kind of like side by side.

And then he was teaching people on the side how to code and then he was still learning and taking lessons. And it’s amazing to think how many times I’ve been in my life and honestly, there’s some moments in your life when you’re like, oh, I did that.

You’re like, I’m pretty good. Like, at one point I was really, really, really good at WordPress, you know? And you know sometimes, I’m just being totally honest, it’s easy to go like I know this, there’s nothing else to learn. Right?

Chris: And it’s so false. There’s always so much more to learn. And reading Ego is the Enemy and this idea of, what do you call it? The plus/minus, I forgot that was the name. Yeah. You’re just like, oh my God. This is how these people are so great. Like, they just keep learning.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah. It was crazy. And I think especially when you’re in that kind of atmosphere where you feel like you’re at school. If you start thinking about it that way, it really kind of takes a lot of the anxiety out of raising your hand and asking a question if you just think it like, oh that guy’s one of the pluses I’m trying to learn from. It kind of alleviates some of that stress because like I remember … So we do Fullstack just online in a Zoom room and I pressed the button to like raise my hand and then all of a sudden I started shaking. I was so nervous when they’re going to call on me.

Just going back to like my teaching days in grad school, where being on the other side of the student’s perspective; as a teacher, you really want those students to ask you the questions and you’re not really thinking, well I guess I’m talking subjectively, but you really want to try to answer their questions in a meaningful way.

But when you’re a student, you’re so nervous about raising your hand and asking your question, or at least in my case, that was one of my hang ups for sure. But thinking about learning in the process of it with that plus/minus equals philosophy, I think it has really helped me, at least when it comes to about then I start thinking about contributing to my cohort in general.

What is the day-to-day work like at Fullstack Academy?

Chris: I want to hear more about Fullstack. Can you tell us a little bit about the day to day? Because you’re doing it all online, it’s 26 weeks and you shared that you’re learning some HTML, JavaScript, CSS and React pretty soon. What else is that day to day like? Just go a little more into it. I’d love to hear.

Buddy Galletti: It’s really great. They have their own learning management system called Learn Dot. So, you just log into their website and they have all these different exercises for you to do. It’s almost like a flipped classroom in a sense where you have a lot of pre-work before a lecture. So, a lot of reading, a lot of trying some example codes and they integrate this app into their learning system that’s called Repl, which is something I just learned about. But it’s basically just a coding environment and a place for you to write your code and run it inside the browser instead of using a text editor or something like that.

And it has built-in tests that Fullstack has coded. So, you know when you hit run and hit submit or something, that it’s doing all the things that you want it to. Right? And then if it’s not doing the things that you want it to, it’ll tell you specifically what you need to to change or, well not necessarily changed, but what you need to get your function to do or whatever it is you’re working on. So, that’s kind of like the day-to-day. That’s usually our pre-work.

And then during the lecture, we’ll have an hour lecture. And the professor, I guess you’d call him, his name is Eric Katz. And he lives in New York, also. And so he’s on there and he does his whole thing for about an hour. And there’s also teaching fellows in there which are kind of like TAs.

Chris: So you’re all in a Zoom room and it’s all live. It’s not pre-recorded.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, sometimes you gotta make sure your microphone is off, in case I don’t know, when it shouldn’t be, I guess. You can fully turn your microphone on and interrupt him and ask a question. So it really has that in class feel.

And then once the lecture is done, we break out into separate Zoom rooms where it’s just you and another student from your cohort and then you have a bunch of workshop problems that you need to work through. And you’re usually given like an hour at least to work on those. And they really encourage you to, to do that kind of like pair programming thing.

Usually, the way I like to do it is, you know, say hey, do you want to share your screen or do you want me to share my screen first and we can work on this? And you kind of take the driver’s seat or the passenger’s seat and then you just switch off once you get to the next problem, which is really cool.

What text editor do you use with Fullstack? Is it all online?

Buddy Galletti: Yeah, it’s all online. It’s still in their learning management system and it’s that Repl environment. I think the website is called Repl.it

Chris: Yeah. I can put a link to it in the show notes, for anyone listening.

Buddy Galletti: It’s really cool. The only thing that gets a little confusing is that if you hit run, no matter what the last line of code is, it’ll actually log whatever the last line is. Even if you don’t put console that log to run it. So sometimes you can get hung up on that. But I think if you’re working in and you start to get familiar with JavaScript, you won’t worry about it too much.

During paired programming at Fullstack, do you pair up with a person from your timezone, like locally? 

Buddy Galletti: Our classes are Tuesday and Thursday nights, Pacific time at 6:30 to 9:30. So, most of the people in my cohort are actually from the San Luis Obispo area because it’s actually the new partnership with the Cal Poly Extended Education program, I think? So there’s a lot of people who live locally here in SLO or just in SLO county.

There’s definitely some people from the Bay Area, like up near San Francisco and I think there’s some people from Washington and I think that’s about it. It’s a lot of people from the west coast. But I think mainly that’s just because of the time slot for this cohort. I mean, they have more than one cohort obviously that runs at different times.

Does Fullstack promise to get you a job afterward?

Buddy Galletti: They don’t promise you’ll get a job or anything, but part of it is a lot of like kind of preparing you for trying to find a job. I think part of the course is near the end we’ll have to produce a resume or build our portfolio with all these projects. So we have some projects that we’re going to be doing, apparently.

So, we’ll have that by the end of it. And then, it’s kind of you’ve got that network now where you’ve met all these new people and you can kind of use that to your advantage. It’s probably different for every student. I’ve seen a lot, of their students getting really good jobs, but they definitely help you prepare for that.

I haven’t experienced that much, but I actually just booked an office hour for tonight and I might ask them like, because I’m really interested in the professional development type stuff.

Is it possible to book office hours with one of the Fullstack TAs? Are they available to answer questions during paired programming?

Buddy Galletti: Yeah, they are. So, so there’s like a chat feature and I think you can chat them or shoot them a message on Slack, because we have a whole Slack thing, too. Sometimes there’s been issues with the tests not coming out the right way or something like that. Or whenever we run our code, like maybe there’s a bug in the system or something. But yeah, they’re there for you. You’ve just gotta shoot them a message and they’ll help you out.

Roughly how much does learning at Fullstack Academy cost?

Buddy Galletti: Okay, so I got the Cal Poly discount because I’m an alumni but for me, it’s cost me almost $11,000.

Chris: Wow, okay.

Buddy Galletti: It’s quite a bit of money. It took me and my wife a really long time to decide to do this and it was definitely a really hard decision whether or not to do it. I’m definitely really happy I did it. It is a lot of money. I know.

But I was looking into a lot of other coding boot camps similar to it and noticed that they won’t charge you anything but you have to pay them 17% of your salary or something for two years after you get a job or something like that.

Chris: You’re talking about other coding boot camps. Do you remember any of the names?

Buddy Galletti: I don’t. But I was looking at coursereport.com, which is a really good resource for coding boot camps and trying to find out which one will be good for you or whether it’s not good for you.

Chris: That’s awesome. So, it sounds like Fullstack Academy has been worth it so far.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah, so far, it’s been great. I’ve learned a ton in just two and a half weeks doing it. It’s been really great.

Was learning to code scary at first?

Buddy Galletti: Oh, totally. Because like all you can do is really like Google stuff and then you just see this alphabet soup of everything and it’s so hard to just digest. So going into One Month, like just after that first HTML class that I took, any time I wanted to like Google something and figure out how to do it, you know, I could notice a few things that I recognized and be like okay this does that. Then I got more comfortable I guess, reading some documentation and just more about libraries.

I even started taking your JavaScript class, but then I technically didn’t finish even though I watched all the videos, I didn’t get the last project turned in on time because I was just busy at work.

Is JavaScript difficult to learn?

Buddy Galletti: JavaScript was a hard one [harder than learning HTML & CSS]. I still have trouble with JavaScript, for sure. But I can’t even tell you how valuable that JavaScript class was even, you know, just now going through Fullstack these first three weeks so far have just been like hardcore JavaScript.

Did you learn JavaScript or jQuery first?

Buddy Galletti: jQuery. So we had a programmer at our work who was using jQuery on a site but then that project kind of got abandoned because I think he was just a student at Cal Poly that was working part-time. But he was learning jQuery and he was telling me about it. And I was like ‘oh, that sounds cool’.

I know there’s a One Month course for it. So, I just took it and I think one of the main reasons I had such a problem with the JavaScript was trying to learn, oh God, what is it? It’s like, not the event listeners but all the queries that you needed to do, just to get the things that you wanted.

I was just having trouble getting the hang of it. But jQuery kind of condensed it and said hey, here’s how you can really just grab this or grab that because I think that’s what jQuery wants to do. I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I definitely learned a little bit.

Chris: Yeah. For a long time, I’ve argued that students should learn jQuery first and then learn JavaScript and I’ve gone back and forth over the years. I mean, I think the argument for doing jQuery before JavaScript is that when you do jQuery you can really visually get satisfaction of, oh, jQuery is used when I want to move an image across the screen, when I want to have some kind of animation, when I want to click a button and have some kind of events or actions occur. Like, it’s really like a visual.

And maybe people, what they’re starting to realize is that it’s actually just JavaScript. JQuery is JavaScript, but it’s just kind of, how do you say, it’s like abstracted or it’s just made easier, you know?

I was getting a lot of arguments from people who are advanced, that was saying, ‘Hey, don’t learn jQuery first because, well first off, it hides some of the hard parts of JavaScript.’

Then also, jQuery isn’t as popular these days as it used to be like, I don’t know, 10 years ago or something. So, I think that depending on who you ask, you’re going to get different answers. But I would say is that I love your story because it really hits home and it’s what I’ve seen in a lot of students. That is yeah, if you are having trouble with JavaScript and you’re starting with it, doing some jQuery and like getting to just visually see the big picture, I think it helps maybe contextualize like, oh this is like where all this nitty gritty is going.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah and I think that one of the great things that are so inherent to learning how to code is that you can literally poke it with a stick and see what happens. You can kind of change one string in one location to another and run it. You might get a ton of errors, but that’s a learning moment. You can Google it and kind of try to figure out what’s going on. So I kind of like that aspect of coding.

I was in pure math, which is like math looking in on itself, you know? But when it comes to coding, like I strictly see it as this really cool tool or you know, all these different tools that I can do really cool math with or display really cool things or run like really long programs that do pretty awesome things.

How did OneMonth.com prepare you to join Fullstack Academy?

Buddy Galletti: Oh, it’s amazing. You know, you just get so lost when you start hearing all these words and the jargons and people who are teaching it start replacing words with other words that they know. When you’re first learning something and you hear something like “calling a function” or “invoking a function” or “passing a callback function” or something like that, it’s just like, you’ve got to be really careful about the words you choose when you’re trying to teach.

It’s something that obviously you can lose a student very early on.

So just knowing all that nomenclature and you kind of have that muscle memory of writing the function keyword and then naming the function and the double parentheses and then double brackets and all that stuff and making sure you have all the syntax down and you kind of know what all the words mean. I think that that’s such a huge benefit.

Chris: Cool. The thing that I get really excited about when I’m teaching people how to code is that if you learn one language, the fundamentals of one language, then it’s not too difficult to learn another language. Like for example, in the JavaScript course, the first week I believe, is called ‘10 Concepts That Are the Same in Every Programming Language’. And you know what you can do with that.

Like, if you know the basics of variables, loops, functions, commenting, these kinds of things, then you can oftentimes, go to Python or I don’t know, go to Ruby or whatever language and you kind of have that fundamental kind of jargon that you’re talking about invoking the function, yadda, yadda, yadda. Like, a lot of that’s the same.

And I think it’s really reassuring because also when people start, they ask me, “Well, which language should I choose?” And people sometimes won’t start coding, because they’ll start a little bit with one, start a little bit with another language. I mean, that’s why we call it One Month. If you go like enough, if you’ve done a few projects, you start to see the patterns and then all of a sudden I think it just opens up this whole world.

Buddy Galletti: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. Especially since at first, JavaScript did not sit well with me. I just had a lot of trouble with it. But then I was like, okay, well let’s try Python or let’s try jQuery. And just having those basics down, even though like, you definitely learn something going through it, you might not have retained everything but you still gain some kind of knowledge and you start to see those patterns.

So one benefit of that is you might see a language that you like better because it just makes more sense to you and then the way they use their keywords and all that kind of stuff. So that was definitely my experience going into Python, which was fun. And then jQuery made so much more sense to me than JavaScript.

What were you able to build at OneMonth.com?

Buddy Galletti: At first I did the HTML One Month course and it’s funny when I go back and look at that code, it’s amazing how much I know now. 

I built a blog for you guys, which I actually used later on to launch one of my websites. 

It’s actually really fun because I think what you guys do at One Month is you really introduce it and you get this like first impression of something that’s totally scary. Like HTML or CSS or just coding in general — you give coding a really good first impression.

Chris, in class you’re just sitting there drinking your iced coffee and being like, “Okay, we’re going to do some coding now!” Then you show us some funny meme that’s going around and it just kind of takes all the kind of preliminary fear away and makes it a little bit more casual.

What is the impact that learning to code has on your job now?

Buddy Galletti: Oh, I think it’s going to be big because I think the way things are headed, there’s just going to be such a demand for someone with these kinds of skills or this kind of skill set. And my idea is I really want to be influential in mathematics education and if I can take this skill set and my knowledge of math and education, I’d really like to combine them and eventually work for a company like that’s big in edtech or is doing some kind of stuff that’s going to revolutionize education in general.

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Fullstack Academy Review

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Chris Castiglione Teacher at One Month. Faculty at Columbia University where I teach Digital Literacy. I write about coding, the internet, and social impact.

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