Coding Temple Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Bacastow

Coding Temple Alumni Ryan Bacastow graduated college with a Political Science and Spanish Language degree and started working for the ECLAC but found that he wasn’t satisfied with this career path. He decided to enroll in Coding Temple’s 10-week Full Time Python bootcamp program and is now currently a Python data analyst at William Blair Global Investment Banking. Read on to learn about his experience at Coding Temple!

What were you up to before you went to Coding Temple?

By the time I graduated college with a degree in Political Science and Spanish Language I had already mapped out what my career would look like in public service: 5 years here, another 5 there, 10 years there, etc etc. With this vision in mind I began working a job at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean(ECLAC) doing research and translation for their Environmental Statistics dept. in Santiago, Chile. I was busily applying for my next gig in international and US institutions(UN, World Bank, State Dept, Intelligence outfits, etc) when I had something of a crisis about the nature of the work that lay ahead in this career path. None of it really satisfied my desire to create or solve problems. There was never a sense of seeing something through to total completion or seeing the fruits of my labor. All the goals for these institutions were more nebulous and harder to define. Very soft skills oriented, and as such, extremely political. It just seemed like a stultifying way to spend the best and most productive years of my life, so I decided to retool my skillsets entirely. I needed something that could satisfy three key requirements:

  1. The skill couldn’t require going far into debt to spend time wasting away at an academic institution.
  2. It would have to be something that really challenged me the way I enjoyed the challenge of learning foreign languages and allow me to be creative, so as to be rewarding personally.
  3. And it had to be something I could use to market myself here in my hometown of Chicago, a traditional finance oriented town.


Did you look at other programming bootcamps before deciding on Coding Temple? How did you finalize on Coding Temple?

Yes, but I wouldn’t say I spent too long going through all the options. It’s important to do research but it felt like a good fit from the reviews and the discussions I had with management. It had the highest reviews on the site I navigated to so that’s what initially brought it to my attention. I think the thing that stuck out the most about Coding Temple was the amount of attention afforded to individuals. At other places it’s a very sink or swim kind of deal, you either get it and can keep up or you don’t and you fall so far behind the teacher might as well be teaching in Latin. I found that Coding Temple allayed some of those fears for this former Numerophobe (defined as ‘one who is afraid of numbers’) with their smaller class sizes and individualized attention. If I was going to be spending money, I wanted to know I would not be passed over as just another cog in a machine churning out ‘coders’. I was able to get up to speed by the time we passed through JavaScript despite not having worked with computers or even algebraic thinking in a long long time. Now I love it and I credit that to the patience and attention afforded by my small class and involved instructors.

What was the application process like?

It was serious which I felt good about. It felt like not just anyone could walk in the door and say ‘I’m a coder now’. Management was in contact with me and answered a lot of questions so that was helpful and ultimately the deciding factor in my opinion. All costs and questions like that were answered straightforwardly and without hesitation.

What stood out to you about the Python programming language?

Where to start? Open source, simple, elegant, powerful, and dare I say… sexy? Python is hot right now for a reason: it’s the most well curated and expansive open source programming language and you don’t need to understand difficult syntax to learn it. It’s a beginner’s dream. The drawbacks of Python are really part of the things that make it so appealing. By being elegant and having numerous powerful open source libraries to automate the boring parts of coding it’s sometimes harder to fully understand the programming process and appreciate the beauty of Pythons role in the programming landscape. The cure for that was of course walking across the hall to try my hand at C#, which was intimidatingly complex when I was starting out. In addition to that, python happens to be the lingua franca of the data-science and analysis world which was is where I wanted to end up. If you take a course in stats, programming for finance, or data analysis, chances are you will come across python as coursework these days. That’s a good sign for future job opportunities.

How was your in-class experience? How many people were in your cohort?

4 people and it was excellent. It was just the right amount of people that we could bounce ideas off each other, get feedback and support (I got so much help from my classmates), and even compete against one another in a productive and fun way. The instructor made sure it was a low pressure environment but wasn’t afraid to challenge us all individually and as a team whether that meant whiteboarding out problems from a tech interview handbook or simultaneously working to code a project together under a deadline.

What was a typical day like at Coding Temple?

Our cohort was full of commuters, like most I assume. It was a fairly regular schedule, where I would come in at 9:15, fill up a cup of coffee and a cup of water for the morning, plug in the laptop and go over the days homework/assignments as a class with everyone. Everyone was expected to contribute to the answers. Then it was lecture until lunchtime when we would usually all go down the block (River North is notorious for its boutique restaurants for the techies in the area) and grab a salad at Mixed Greens. It was a good way to get to know one another and the instructors and it was organic, we didn’t plan on that being a tradition or anything.

Who was your instructor? How was his teaching style?

Joel was approachable and easy to get along with. His programming chops were undeniable too, he’s like a walking encyclopedia of all the various libraries and little shortcuts python and JavaScript have to offer. Most of all Joel and Derek, our TA, were able to shine as debuggers of our earlier programs/angular websites. Bless their hearts for debugging all that code alongside us, I wouldn’t wish that task upon my worst enemy(fellow classmate Peter Yoon).

What did you end up building for your capstone project?

Ryan presenting his capstone project for Coding Temple Python Spring 2017 Cohort

All my work is available to the public at and I encourage curious students to go through my digital portfolio to get an idea of the amount of work we squeezed into 10 weeks. My true pride and joy is my frontend project which I spent the most time and attention on. It’s an AngularJS SPA (Single Page Application) that queries an API using AJAX calls in javascript and returns data to the user seamlessly.

I wanted to build an app about the sugar and carbohydrate content of food products because I think the average consumer has little idea of the amount of sugar in their everyday diet routines and the effects of sugar and refined carbohydrates on the human body (hint: they aren’t good) It was super empowering to be able to bring this idea to fruition as a fully functional tool for consumers and I hope to commercialize it at some point in the future.

Is there anything that you would like to see changed with the program?

I have made it known that I think Python is a better way to introduce students to programming than JavaScript. JavaScript is idiosyncratic and operates in different ways than normal non browser based languages and its simply more verbose and cluttered than Python. Python also has a wonderful array of tools through the Jupyter Notebooks (formerly IPython Notebooks) that allow students to essentially take notes and test their code at the same time. It’s a wonderful tool that is used in workplaces and classrooms alike for its teaching capabilities and I know management and Joel have been super open to these suggestions. I always felt like I could voice my disapproval or concerns about the course and curriculum at any time, I was happy that it wasn’t a confrontational experience at any point. The environment that some of my college professors teachers perpetuated would never have allowed for input like that.

How was learning at Coding Temple different from learning in college?

It’s more intense. There is no final exam, your life and career future is just around the corner and your final exam is how you present your work to recruiters and clients so everyone is aware that the stakes are high. The short period of time coupled with the recruiting process at the end of the course make it a good way to learn. Its real and it’s not like college, there won’t be another semester or another class or a summer vacation. It’s the big leagues.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your bootcamp?

Ryan dominating at ping pong

Besides JavaScript? I think the biggest challenge was probably soaking in all the things there are to know about programming, computers, and coding without drowning in it and totally shutting off. Sometimes it felt like there just wasn’t enough time or space in my brain for me to ever cram all the relevant information into my mine and then memorize it. That’s why working on concrete projects is the most important aspect of any coding camp experience. It grounds your knowledge of the concepts in a real world example that you have to fine tune and really get to understand. I probably still couldn’t tell you exactly what a web API does, but I can build one for you and that has made all the difference at the end of the day. Whatever the case, my biggest challenge certainly wasn’t the Ping-Pong court as I thoroughly dominated the competition (Peter Yoon). I want to take this opportunity to invite any future students to coding temple to challenge me ( ) in my long reign as king of the court.


Did you do a lot of projects throughout the course?

Yes, but the best experiences and the most learning and attention came from working on the projects that were my own creations as opposed to the cookie cutter builds that one has to do at the outset in order to grasp the material. Altogether I can recall three major projects that I created and another 5 or six that were walkthroughs as a group.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about doing a coding bootcamp?

This is from a LinkedIn response that I sent to an inquiring potential student. (People can always feel free to contact me (besides Peter Yoon) at

I hadn’t had much coding experience before this camp and I will tell you that the earlier you start the better. Start now. Once we crossed into JavaScript (week 2-5) I had to put in a lot of extra hours pouring over basic stuff and it was taxing. I think that you can’t go wrong with any code camp, learning this skill is a valuable asset and a great idea. That being said, you will essentially get out whatever level of effort you bring to it. Unlike a traditional education program at a university, it is less like a course where you need to get good grades, but more like an apprenticeship or mentorship where all your success and failure is dependent on your ability to accept some direction from the instructors while simultaneously immersing yourself in the subject and spending lots of your own time and energy working through problems and testing your limits. As far as coding camps go, I’m sure you get what you pay for essentially. A larger, more established and expensive camp would probably provide more intense experience than Coding Temple, but you’re also more likely to be just another random face passing through. I felt like everybody here is very close to the students and each other, and that they are committed to the company (management checks in on us and gets feedback both anonymously and verbally). It can seem like a more relaxed atmosphere and the instructors are laid back but they are industry veterans and know their shit. It’s all about feeling like you can access them personally. Go to the different camps and get a tour. The best one is going to be the one you feel the biggest personal connection to. And as to the value of the camp, I feel like coding temple will definitely get me placed so the saved money from here versus hack reactor or full-stack is nice. So to reiterate everything and add in a few caveats, choose carefully but know that no single camp can make you into a programmer. It’s all about how much of your own focused time and energy you spend punching away at the keyboard, it’s your own sweat and tears (many many tears) that allows you to breakthrough from abstract understanding to writing your own code. That being said, a coding camp can guide you and cut down the learning curve (which can be intimidating) significantly, and is well worth the investment if they have job placement and payment plans (so they have a financial interest in your success). Lastly, what environment are you looking to study in? That will determine which camp is best. If you need any more help just let me know I’m happy to share learning websites, techniques and other info I wish I had when I was starting out.

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