In an era where self-education opportunities are plentiful and cheap, there’s a question on a lot of minds: is it worth going to college?
That answer is going to be different for everyone, but it’s important for potential students to consider the pros and cons of college and know their alternatives.
Mosh Hamedani got his Bachelor of Science in software engineering back in 2000, during the beginning of the tech industry when these alternatives were not plentiful. As he’s grown as a developer over the years and started teaching courses himself through Code With Mosh, he’s come to believe a college degree is not the best option for everyone.
In today’s episode, we talk about the pros and cons of college, the other free and cheap resources out for self-teaching, how you can learn on the job, things to consider if you want to work for yourself, and more.
Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos. Laurence Bradford 0:08 Laurence Bradford 0:27 Laurence Bradford 0:50 Laurence Bradford 1:12 Laurence Bradford 2:02 Mosh Hamedani 2:05 Laurence Bradford 2:06 Mosh Hamedani 2:14 Laurence Bradford 3:31 Mosh Hamedani 3:37 Mosh Hamedani 4:41 Laurence Bradford 6:11 Mosh Hamedani 6:32 Laurence Bradford 7:28 Mosh Hamedani 7:53 Laurence Bradford 8:19 Mosh Hamedani 8:36 Mosh Hamedani 9:34 Mosh Hamedani 10:35 Mosh Hamedani 11:24 Laurence Bradford 12:09 Mosh Hamedani 12:40 Mosh Hamedani 13:11 Laurence Bradford 13:48 Mosh Hamedani 14:08 Laurence Bradford 14:14 Mosh Hamedani 14:33 Mosh Hamedani 15:37 Mosh Hamedani 16:40 Mosh Hamedani 17:35 Laurence Bradford 18:39 Laurence Bradford 18:44 Laurence Bradford 20:03 Laurence Bradford 21:17 Mosh Hamedani 21:35 Laurence Bradford 22:10 Mosh Hamedani 22:18 Laurence Bradford 22:55 Mosh Hamedani 23:03 Laurence Bradford 23:29 Mosh Hamedani 23:49 Laurence Bradford 24:54 Mosh Hamedani 25:24 Laurence Bradford 25:49 Mosh Hamedani 26:19 Laurence Bradford 27:12 Laurence Bradford 27:55 Mosh Hamedani 28:27 Laurence Bradford 29:01 Mosh Hamedani 29:06 Laurence Bradford 29:17 Mosh Hamedani 29:36 Mosh Hamedani 29:59 Laurence Bradford 30:29 Mosh Hamedani 30:41 Laurence Bradford 31:13 Mosh Hamedani 31:53 Laurence Bradford 32:29 Mosh Hamedani 32:46 Laurence Bradford 33:19 Mosh Hamedani 33:49 Laurence Bradford 34:30 Mosh Hamedani 34:35 Laurence Bradford 34:46 Mosh Hamedani 34:47 Laurence Bradford 34:56
Hey, and thank you for tuning in to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. In this episode, you'll find out about the importance of staying motivated when working for yourself, and why teaching yourself software engineering skills is better than going to college. That's all coming up after a quick word from our sponsors.
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Hey Mosh, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's great to have you on.
Thanks for having me.
I'm really excited to talk with you today. And to get things started. I would love if you could tell us a bit about your background and your story.
Sure. Well, my name is Mosh Hamedani. And as a kid, I had a Commodore 64. And I used to play a lot of video games on that. So that was basically my inspiration. I wanted to become a programmer, so I could build a game for myself the way I want it. So I was a perfectionist from a very young age. And that dream drove me to study the Bachelor of Science in software engineering in year 2000. But back then the game industry wasn't that big in Iran where I grew up. So it was the beginning of the web industry. And that basically changed my life and my career. So I started working as a web developer. The web development technologies we had back then were very different from what we have these days. We had CGI, so I had to learn how to program at a very low level in c++. That was very painful. Then later on classic ASP came that was revolutionary. And after a few years everybody hated it. Anyway, four years ago, I started teaching online. I have a YouTube channel with almost half a million subscribers called program with marsh. I also have a blog under the same name, and a coding school at code with Marsh comm where you can find a bunch of courses on web and mobile application development.
Awesome. So I'm curious what made you want to start teaching online?
Well, initially, I was thinking of doing that as an extra way to make income. All I wanted was just $500 extra in my bank account. I was working full time as a software engineer. And I wanted to do this for a long time, but I really never had time for it. Whenever I came home, I was too tired. And I knew nothing about production. I knew nothing about microphones video. recording software until a point where I quit my job. And I thought maybe this is a good opportunity for me to give this a try before looking for a new job. So I decided to live off my savings for about three months. First, I created a course that was two hours long, called double your coding speed. This is a course for C sharp developers. I show them a lot of tricks, a lot of shortcuts, how to navigate in the code in Visual Studio. It took me about three weeks to create that two hour course. And after he published it, I think I hardly made $100.
So I thought, Okay, this is not working. And then I did some research and I realized there is some demand for a backbone course. backbone. js was a library back then that was popular. So I spent six weeks to create a six hour course I thought this is a fairly substantial courses has a lot of content, maybe this is going to sell. And guess what it didn't sell. So that's when I thought, Okay, this is not gonna work, I better start looking for a job. So I went for interviews and I found a job. They told me why she got a start in three weeks. So I thought, What do I have to do in these three weeks, I didn't want to stay home, watch TV or just waste my time. So I thought, maybe just create another course. And I created a course called C sharp, advanced topics that was about three hours long. And that course started to generate some money. Obviously, it wasn't as much as I was hoping or it really didn't give me what I could call a profit given the time that I spent on creating this but I could see potential. Then I started a new job and I told my employer that I want to take one day week off so I could spend time creating courses. And fast forward after eight months. I really like During that job, and I decided to quit my job, and since then I've been working for myself, teaching online, creating courses for people, helping them become a better developer.
That's really that's like such an awesome story. But I'm curious. Also, how did you stay motivated after making the first few courses that weren't doing as well as you hoped? Because that's a lot of time. It sounds like you know, you spent three weeks on one six weeks on another another couple weeks. That's months of time. How did you just like what was driving you?
Very good question. Um, I think it's just part of me. I grew up reading self development books from childhood, a lot of Tony Robbins books. So I was always motivated in my life. If I had a goal, I said, I got to do it no matter what. And I say a lot of people these days, lack motivation. I see a lot of talented people who have ideas are creative, but the missing component is motivation. And I think The main reason is because they don't see the potential. If I tell you that if you do this, you're going to make $1 million every day you get up at five o'clock and go do it no matter what. But if I tell you, you're going to spend six weeks and you're going to make, I don't know, maybe $100 you're you're not going to be motivated. Now, I know this contradicts my story, because I spent a lot of time working on this course. And it didn't sell but I still had hope. I thought, if other people have done it, I'm going to be able to do it.
Yeah, yeah, that Yeah, that makes sense. And that's great that you've kept up that motivation and because obviously it's built so much now you're at, you know, almost a half a million YouTube subscribers. I want to get into some other topics, but I'm, when did you start the YouTube channel? Because you were making courses online. And did you do the YouTube channel after that? Or was the YouTube channel for the courses you were selling?
Well, it was after and honestly, I wasn't thinking seriously about YouTube because I knew nothing about Creating a YouTube channel promoting it. It was just something that I thought to give it a try. And all I did was uploading some episodes from my backbone course there. And those videos. I don't think they even had 2000 views. So yeah, it took a while until my YouTube channel to cough.
Gotcha. So I'm switching gears here. But on your website, you mentioned that in college and I know you, you said you studied computer science, you realized that 80% of what you were learning wasn't useful. How did you end up coming to this realization?
Very good question again. I have a lot of rants about universities. And well, I told you I studied my Bachelor of Science in Iran. And I thought the problem we had was limited to Iranian universities. I thought American universities are the best and they're just a perfect world. But let me give you a few examples. So in Iran, all engineering Students have to pass a bunch of standard subjects. Like we have a bunch of math, a lot of physics, we have to learn how to solve problems around velocity, acceleration, mirrors, light, whatever. None of this have anything to do with programming. We had electrical circuits, one electrical circuits to electronic circuits. Again, so much irrelevant subjects that we had to study and pay for. And unfortunately, universities don't teach you the skills that you really need to become a professional software developer.
Now, I get a lot of arguments from people saying, but when you go to university, you grow as a whole. You don't have to learn all about programming, you have to learn about everything like literature, biology, physics, whatever. But hey, we have this subject at high school. So why do we have to go to university pay 50 $200,000 graduate with a with a loan that with debt that we have to pay back in, I don't know. 10 years In my opinion, people go to universities to learn a skill, so they can get professional jobs, so they don't have to do casual jobs and get paid with minimum wage. Yeah. And when I came to the US, I realized we have the same problem here. One of the popular universities in California, they're teaching biology to their software engineering students. What does biology have to do with programming? Now, somebody said, but what if you go to a company and you build some software that involves biology? Well, there there are biologists who know their domain very well.
You don't need to understand everything. Let me give you an example. If you want to learn about healthy eating, all you have to know is you should eat greens, you should drink plenty of water. You should cut down on fat, especially saturated fats and so on. You don't need to understand human body at a cellular level or you don't need to understand about atoms and electrons to understand how To eat healthy. Now take this metaphor and apply it to software industry, the stuff that they teach people in software engineering programs are very outdated or very low level, they do not apply anymore. These days, we work with technologies that are far different from what we had 30 years ago. And universities have not be able to have not been able to keep up with all these changes.
So they teach a bunch of irrelevant subjects, like a lot of math, physics, and people say, well, computers are all these concepts are used to build computers, you need to know math, you need to know hardware, you need to know, electrical circuits, yet these concepts were used to build computers. But when 50 years ago, these days I see people graduate, and they don't know some essential topics like they never heard of source control management. They don't know what's good. But guess what you use Git every single day at work. You use GitHub. They don't know anything about Docker. They don't know anything about no SQL database. He says. So that's why I'm very against the university education system for software engineering. I'm not generalizing this purely by software engineering.
So if you are talking to someone right now, or actually, there's probably people listening to this show that are in high school, thinking about going to university, or maybe there's even some folks that are in like their mid 20s, or 30s. And they're thinking of going back to school school to get a degree in computer science, like a bachelor's or a Master's. What do you think is like a better alternate path to learning these skills instead of going to a university?
Well, these there's There are tons of resources online to learn programming. Back then, when I started, all we had was books. And these books were expensive. They had typos. So if I type the same code, maybe it didn't work. And when I started learning programming, we even didn't have the internet. So I had To spend all night to figure out what was wrong. These days, everything is at your fingertips. So there are plenty of websites selling online courses. And the good thing is there's so many teak people teaching the same topics.
Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely. Obviously, I'm a huge proponent for teaching yourself and learning through online courses and other online resources and you have so much experience in the field. And you teach courses on a number of topics, actually, how many if you know off the top of your head, how many different courses do you have available today?
I think it's somewhere around 22 or three. I really lost track. Okay.
Yeah, I mean, that's, that's an Of course you have even more YouTube videos. How many YouTube videos do you have? That's around hundred 50 I think Wow. Okay. So you know, a lot of these skills you teach a lot of these skills. What do you think are the most important things people need to learn today to become a software engineer?
Great question. Well, I would say at a minimum, you need to know two programming languages. And don't get intimidated by intimidated by this because these programming languages are very similar. 70% of them have the same concept. You need to know about variables, data types, loops, conditional statements, classes, objects, exceptions, something like module package, library, whatever. These are the essential concepts that exist in almost any Every programming language, the differences are syntactical now, what language you should learn. I would say the easiest to learn programming is Python. Because the syntax is so simple, you don't get you don't get lost in so much detail about the language. So you can focus on learning about algorithms you can, you can learn about problem solving, Python doesn't get in the way. And also Python is very versatile. So you have a lot of options. It allows you to go in the machine learning industry or become a back end developer or do automation or build desktop or mobile applications.
How many search or sorting algorithms we have, you need to master these because these help you think like a programmer, and these are the things you get asked when you go for an interview in a company like Google or Microsoft, or Amazon. super important. Then you should learn about source control management, you know, you need to know Git and GitHub, you need to know how to commit your code to a repository, look at the history, look at deaths, merge your code. These are the skills that you use on a daily basis basis, and they don't really teach you at universities. So instead of wasting your time and money learning biology, or history of California, or physics are a bunch of irrelevant stuff. These are the things you really need to learn. And the good thing is for each of these, you can find a course you can find a good course that is five hours or 10 hours. It's much faster than going to a university spending three months to learn get, which they don't teach anyway.
And if you want to get to the senior level stuff, there are other things you need to learn like different types of databases like relational or non relational, which we call no SQL databases. On the relational side, I would say learn about MySQL because that's the most popular and open source relational database management system. On the non relational side, learn about MongoDB these give you a lot of job offers. As is. And if there is something extra you want to learn, I would say learn about UI and UX, because most programmers are terrible UI or UX designers. Now I know a lot of companies have someone specialized in UX. But if you don't have a UX guy on your team, or you're the only person on the team, you don't want your software to look horrendous. Again, instead of wasting your time learning biology, physics, literature, learn this stuff. Because these these skills really matter. And they help you grow, become a better version of yourself, make more money and basically, enjoy life in every aspect.
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Yes, yes. And you obviously know all these things you teach a lot of these things. How did you end up learning these things if you didn't learn them in university? And it sounds like at the time there are also books and stuff you're using that maybe didn't cover this yet how did you go about learning all this?
I'm basically reading books back then. And then taking online courses as well as work experience I learned a lot of these stuff at work. And to be honest, I I didn't spend a lot of time going out partying or you know, stuff like that. I was mostly growing in terms of knowledge. So I was a bit of computer nerd to be honest. But not like the nerdy, nerdy nerdy To type that you've seen movies, I had a social life. But that was maybe 30% of my life. The other 70% was about learning more about programming.
Gotcha. And how long were you working in the industry before you started just creating, you know, courses full time?
I started working when I was 18. Getting, I think, a contract job back then I built a website for an online for a publishing book company. And right now, I'm 37. So I've been working almost two decades. Even the past four years that I've been teaching online, I still get projects here and there. And not that often. There are many short term contracts, something that I'm really interested in and I know it's it's going to add value to my knowledge and teach me something new as opposed to doing the same thing over and over and helping someone has to get rich.
Yeah, yeah. So you've been teaching online for four years. Okay. How much of that four years Has it been more or less your full time thing?
Um, it's been actually more than full time to be honest with you. Sometimes our work on the weekends, sometimes after hours, sometimes I'm in bed at 11pm. And I'm still checking a few things to kind of my YouTube channel. I might be I don't know, either driving and to come up with an idea, I quickly record myself saying, Hey, I should do this and that. So it's really my entire life. It's not like a nine to five kind of job.
That's awesome. And I mean, it just reminds me of like when you were first making courses, and you had this like motivation and like, even though it's years later, you still have the motivation except it's like on a whole different level. Now, you know, you have like a massive audience and you have, as you said, like, over 20 courses already made online.
Absolutely. I in fact, I'm obsessed with this because I see the impact I'm making. Believe it or not, every day I get 10 to 20 emails or messages on my YouTube channel. or Twitter, wherever people say Marsh, thank you, you change my life, I got a job because of you or I got a promotion, I see the impact that I'm making in the world. Whereas in my last job, I was working really hard. And nobody recognized my work. Every month we had a staff meeting. So 40 people in the company got together, they were presentations. And every month somebody got an award. But most of the time, these were people who were doing sales or in the customer service area. So whoever helped customer whoever brought new customers, nobody cared about programmers. Nobody cared about, you know, all the architectural improvements that I did in our software. That's why I'm so obsessed and passionate about this, because every course that I create every tutorial, every lecture, I know somebody in the world 10s or hundreds or thousands of people are going to benefit from this.
Yeah, I mean, I totally relate. I'm not doing exactly what you're doing, obviously, but it's It's such a rewarding feeling when you know you're really impacting people's lives however it you know, maybe, and this may be like kind of a weird question, but when you were younger, you know, when you first started working in tech, did you see yourself as an entrepreneur one day is inside? No. Is that how you classify yourself now like, or do you think of yourself more as just like a product creator?
Not at all. Never, never, ever. I told you when I started creating courses, all I wanted was $500 extra. I wasn't thinking oh, I'm gonna build a business making $2 million a year. None of these. Basically, you know, they tell you shoot for the moon to get to the stars. Right? I was never like that. I just thought I want to do this. And I will do it no matter what.
Yeah. Wow. And I don't want to like talk too much about the business side of things. But I that's just personally stuff. I'm so interested in. Like, okay, so you made these initial courses? And it sounds like you weren't making a lot of money from them. But was it something that like, just slowly grew over time? As far as like the, I guess, the financial side of things with or was it something that like, really quickly shifted? I don't know if that makes sense.
Yeah, no, there was there was really no shortcut. Nothing that made that dramatic change over the night. And when I left my last job, I knew that I was going to make less money, but I was happy to work for myself. I was happy not to waste my time in meetings that I was not interested in. I was happy that I was not spending my time making someone else get rich, who didn't care about me, and didn't appreciate my work. So I thought I'm gonna spend my time doing things that I love. I'm a very creative person. And my courses have a lot of creative aspects. It's not just about teaching programming, like the slides that I designed the color I choose these are all my own work. And I get excited working on these things because I can do some programming and I can do something that is more creative. I don't have to do things that I'm not interested in. Does that answer your question?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And one of the things that I love about your courses because I've seen like inside the area, the student area on your course website, you know, when people buy on your courses, what they get, and the attention to detail, and the design of the student area is like, beyond belief, like, most, you know, I've seen a lot of online courses. And obviously, like, there's bigger companies that have big budgets, like you know, LinkedIn learning Udacity you know, you know, companies like that where they have really great user interfaces for students but then when it comes to like individual creators, and I can understand why because it takes a lot of work.
It usually isn't at like the same level but yeah, yours I just remember being blown away. Because like the quality of your videos the detail into like the screen that people are watching the videos on. And this isn't like public facing this is you know a smaller percentage of people are going through this but still the attention to detail was just I was like, wow, this is this is awesome. How did you learn to do especially with the video editing? I'm just so impressed when people are really good at like the video editing because I find it one of the most, like tedious kinds of tasks to do.
Yeah, well, the recent videos that you see that look pretty cool. And they have a lot of animations. I don't do these. I have someone a dedicated video editor. He does all these things for me. But yeah, I had to learn all this stuff. I had to learn how to use Final Cut Pro, a bit of premiere Camtasia for recording software. Yeah, it took a while Honestly, it wasn't something that I was very interested in doing. But I had to do it for a long time for I think for three years. I did it all by myself until I had had someone to do it for me.
Wow. And did you just learn like as you went? Or did you actually take courses and like?
Watching YouTube videos? Whenever I got stuck, or I was looking for a particular feature, I just research and figure it out. I wasn't an expert in video editing.
Got it. Got it. So, you, I've seen that you said that your goal is to make sure that learning software engineering is as accessible as possible. how accessible Do you think it is right now? And what do you think can be done to make it even more accessible?
Honestly, I don't know what can be done to make it more accessible because right now is just so accessible and available and affordable. Such that anyone can learn programming. There are really no excuses. It's just a matter of dedication. I say a lot of people say, hey, I want to learn programming. I learned a little bit of HTML. Well, HTML is not programming. It's a markup language.
When you said six to 12 months of dedicated learning time, do you mean like full time like, like a university student? Or do you think it could be done with I don't know, a few hours a day?
No, I would say yeah, you need minimum five hours a day. But but that's that's pretty fair, right? Five hours a day. I think, if work depends if you're a job or not. If you're at home, you definitely have five hours a day. If you have a full time job, then maybe you can Consider taking an hour or two off every day at the cost of losing your some of your income. But that's an investment because you spend that those hours studying programming, or you can do it on the weekend.
Yeah, definitely. I have to make sacrifices I you know, I've interviewed over 100 people now for the show. And there's a lot of folks who transitioned into tech later and had full time jobs and the like, underlying theme of all their stories is just like they made sacrifices like some people, you know, really cut out all recreation, all vacations, stop watching sports, stopped drinking alcohol stopped, whatever, just so they could have a few hours every day to learn these skills. And then of course, you know, it took them time but they were and they ended up being able to get a significantly better role more fulfilled higher paying, but they did have to make, you know, sacrifices in the short term.
Absolutely. This is the basic formula that works for everyone. I told you when I was at university, my micro Ask me, told me about this party and that party i didn't i didn't go to most of them. They travel, I didn't do that. I was I was mainly reading books program, programming until, let's say 4am. So these are the sacrifices that I made that helped me to become who I am right now. And as for my job, I told you, I, I took one day off, and obviously my income reduced, I quit my job my income reduce, I made these sacrifices, so I could be independent. I work for myself and do what I'm passionate about.
Yeah. And and I imagine now it's paid off huge. And I'm imagining you're able to make more now than you did as a full time software engineer. And not only now but I feel like your future income potential just as you continue to grow your courses and your YouTube channel and all that.
Yeah, to be quite honest with you. That's something that sometimes worries me because this is like every other business. It's unpredictable. You don't know how the market is going to change. The good thing about having a full time job as you can, can somehow count on it, you know that every month this is what you're gonna earn. Yeah, you may you may, you may get kicked out, or I don't know, whatever happens. But I think business or running a business has more risks, and you need to be tolerant for that.
Yes, I feel like we could do an entire episode probably just talking about that because i know what i mean since I began doing, you know, learn to code me full time it's definitely a lot more ups and downs and there's not as much stability and there's a lot more to think about in many ways as far as finances go with what when you're running your own business, so totally relate there. To wrap things up. I would love to hear about some of your future plans with your YouTube channel with code with Marsh and resolve that.
Oh well all this essential subjects that I told you about, like these programming languages, data structures, design patterns, source control, management, all that. Essential Skills that every developer must know. My plan is to create a course on all these topics. So on my website code with Marsh comm, we have a complete library for anyone who wants to start from an absolute beginner to someone who has some experience and wants to transition to senior level. So all the criticism that I have against universities, I also want to have the solution instead of just whining about University saying, Oh, they, they, they waste our time they waste our money. I'm going to come up with a solution.
Awesome. I love that. Thank you so much again for coming on. And where can people find you online?
So my blog is programmed with mosh.com, my coding school where you can get my courses are codewithmosh.com, and my youtube channel is Programming with Mosh.
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on.
Awesome. Thank you so much for inviting me. It was pleasure talking to you.
Thanks for listening today. If you enjoyed this episode and are interested in Learning how to code. There's no better way to start than by learning HTML. I put together an introductory cheat sheet that you might like to use if you're learning HTML, it covers HTML tags and how they're used. Proper html5 layout structure, aka the right way to set up your HTML files. A list of outdated HTML tags you don't need to use anymore, and lots more. If it sounds like something that could be useful to you download your free copy at learntocodewith.me/HTML. It was great to have you with me on the Learn to Code With Me podcast today. I'll see you next time.
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.
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Laurence Bradford 33:19
Mosh Hamedani 33:49
Laurence Bradford 34:30
Mosh Hamedani 34:35
Laurence Bradford 34:46
Mosh Hamedani 34:47
Laurence Bradford 34:56
- There are a lot of talented people who have creative ideas, but a lot of the time, they lack motivation. Maybe they don’t see the potential in their idea, or if it doesn’t make money right away, they lose motivation. But if you stick at it and keep trying new things, you’ll find something that works.
- Doing a university degree isn’t always the best option, especially if you want to study software engineering, because you’re forced to learn a lot of irrelevant subjects. It’s important to really consider what you want to learn, and look at your desired degree’s required courses to see if university would be the best way to achieve that.
- It’s a good idea to at least consider teaching yourself instead. There are hundreds of courses and resources out there, and they’re so much cheaper (in money and time) compared to the cost of going to university.
- Work experience and learning on the job is another great option if you want to learn real-world tech skills.
- Learning to code is so accessible, available, and affordable right now. Anyone can do it! If you dedicate 6 to 12 months of your time, around five hours a day, you’ll have a good chance of getting a junior software development job. It’s all just about choosing the path that suits you, the experience you want to have, and what kind of work ethic you have.
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Special thanks to this episode’s sponsors
Thinkful: With online programs, flexible classes, and one-on-one mentoring, Thinkful’s Product Design program can help you land a job as a product designer. To get $500 off, go to learntocodewith.me/thinkful.