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Experienced Product Manager: Codementor Sure Beats Paying $10k+ for a Bootcamp

–  Nov 14, 2014
Donnie Wang is an experienced product manager and marketer who spent the past 10 years working in companies such as HP, Ubisoft, and Raptr. He studied entrepreneurship in college, but never “took the leap” to try to build something of his own, mostly due to not knowing exactly where to begin, especially in tech.
Despite having attended numerous in-person crash courses at local bootcamps and having tried all the online courses under the sun including Codecademy, CodeSchool, Team Treehouse, Udemy, and SkillShare, he never knew exactly how to apply those learnings to the specific ideas he wanted to build for an SMS automation iOS app called Snapvite.
He originally mapped out four to six months to learning how to code and build the app, but his product management course instructor at General Assembly, Carlos González de Villaumbrosia, recommended Codementor to him as a way to assist and speed up his development. After evaluating his priorities of learning as much as he could while building what he wanted to build, he decided Codementor was worth the try.

What does Snapvite do and Why did you want to Build it?

Snapvite: Your Scheduling Robot

As an avid tennis player, I’m always working to improve my game, and a big part of that is hitting with the best players possible. I’d generally invite friends in a specific order of priority, which I’d end up spending a lot of time on. So I built Snapvite to automate that process and help get responses back in a timely manner.

Snapvite is an iOS app that sends fleeting invitations via SMS that expire after 30 minutes. Once an invitee replies “out” or their 30m runs out, the scheduling robot will invite the next person on the list until you fill your activity.

Along the way I found that this mechanism could apply to many scenarios:

  • Finding the best tennis match
  • Extra tickets to the game
  • Dinner reservations
  • Golf tee times
  • Maybe even to get a date?!

How has Codementor played a role in Snapvite’s Development?

I came to Codementor with a simple prototype that I put together using Omnigraffle (wireframing tool) paired with InVision (prototyping tool that allows you to create clickable hotspots). This made it really easy to discuss my project with potential mentors and get an initial feel for the approach and how much work lay ahead.

Codementor basically helped bridge the gap of not having a technical co-founder to work alongside. Since I had zero experience with actual app development, I leveraged Codementor’s service heavily early on to get my project off the ground when I was learning the basics of iOS development and Xcode. I would schedule meetings with one of my mentors, Bridger Maxwelland Ramzi Benna, ~3x/week, in which I learned anything from a basic walkthrough of the Xcode interface, the fundamentals of iOS development—all the way to how to build custom table views, implement Parse backend SDK, and integrate the Twilio SMS API.

Bridger and Donnie meeting for the first time in-person after many hours working together via vid chat/online

I used my off days to hack on my own and break things. I think “breaking things” was the key to my learning and easily gave us plenty of things to work on each session.

Can You Give an Example of How Your Sessions Would Go?

Since I was starting with no prior experience in iOS development and Objective-C, my mentors basically guided me through the entire development process. We would pair program through sharing my computer screen, which was a comforting factor knowing that all of our work/code resided locally on my computer (and my git repository of course).

a session Donnie had with Ramzi Benna

At the end of each session we would discuss “homework” assignments for me to work on by myself. Then I’d report back in the next session and we’d pick up wherever I left off.

I ended up relying on Codementor consistently throughout my project, which took ~3 months, and I believe my Snapvite app is evidence of the quality instruction I received. It was approved for the App Store on first submission and in only 4 days!

What Were the Most Valuable Things You’ve Learned from Using Codementor?

I’ve learned that development is hard and there’s no way I would have been able to develop my first app alone as a coding beginner. I also got really good at prioritizing and managing scope creep now that I understood the amount of work that goes into each little feature request.

Is There Anything You’d Like to Add?

I really like the value prop Codementor offers for someone like me who wants to build something, but may not know how yet.

I’ve been telling everyone using Codementor sure beats paying $10k+ for a bootcamp with only the hope that you’ll leave with the necessary skills to build what you want. Codementor is the most direct way for entrepreneur types to get something built and learn at the same time.

I do plan on using Codementor much more once I figure out the next features I want to build. If you happen to care about reading more of my ramblings, I’ve been blogging about my journey @ www.donniewang.com

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