The higher education system in the United States is losing its reputation as the best option for career changers. People are worried about the ballooning cost of higher education. And if you take longer than expected to graduate, the price you think you’re paying for a college education may rise in unforeseen ways. Only 45% of students graduate from a four-year university in four years or less, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Coding bootcamps like Thinkful are providing an alternative to the higher education experience for career changers. But this is more than just a cheaper alternative to a four-year college experience.
Students are having more success completing the programs because of its strong support system. As Thinkful’s outcome report shows, an average of 85% of graduates find a job within one year of graduation within their field of study, which is not the case with colleges.
The coding bootcamp’s success is due to a number of reasons, but its Academic Success Managers (ASMs) are a key part of that success. Thinkful’s ASMs work with students to keep them on track and remove any barriers to success while making sure that their needs always come first.
What Is an Academic Success Manager?
The Academic Success Managers (ASM) at Thinkful support students throughout their time in the program in a number of ways. They make sure they’re adjusting well to the school’s learning structure, while also serving as the first line of support in case students have any questions.
Brittany Swanger has been with Thinkful as an ASM since 2019, so she’s seen for years how critical the position is in a student’s journey.
“We are the non-technical, non-learning support for students,” Swanger said. “So when those challenges occur, whether that’s a technical issue or questions about professional development, time management, building out their goals, or setting their visions and getting the time to think about their experiences as a whole, we’re here to help make sure that they’re hitting exactly what they want to be doing. That they’re getting the exact needed skills, the experience, and support for success.”
ASMs have a passion for helping students reach their full potential. They usually have a background in education, but Brittany believes there’s an extra element that makes ASMs so successful in what they do.
“The passion to want to change lives is probably the biggest thing. If you look across our team, many of us do come from education, I don’t think that’s by accident,” Brittany said. “We care about people and we care about supporting them towards their goals and removing any mountain or molehill in the way of their success.”
What Do Academic Success Managers Do?
ASMs work with students in both the full-time and part-time course structures. Students in the two program structures have similar challenges, but different needs. Full-time students are in video meetings all day with their instructors, TAs, and the rest of their cohorts, so it’s easier for everyone they know to hold them accountable during their learning experience.
But students in the part-time structure face different challenges. They’re doing much more learning on their own, usually for the first time in their lives. Thinkful’s ASMs ensure that these students don’t fall through the cracks as they try to learn, and so they work proactively to give them the tools they need to succeed.
Each ASM helps anywhere from 80 to 100 students at a time, so there’s a lot to track, but they find ways to give each student the individual attention they deserve. But there’s also a lot of success to celebrate as students are constantly enrolling and graduating from the program due to its rolling deadline structure.
Regardless of the structure that students are enrolled in, the support from ASMs includes time management tips, student advocacy, and regular encouragement.
Offer Time Management Tips
Without some structure to a self-paced flexible course, it may start to feel overwhelming. As Brittany mentioned, ASMs give students the time management tools that they might need to get their bearings in what could be a new learning environment for them.
“We’re a firm believer in the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method allows them to create a cadence and a rhythm in their learning. Dedicating time, sitting down with the material and doing what they can to run the drills and build out their design sprints, and then taking that time to break,” Brittany said. “So being a flexible formatted course, the students are learning on their own a lot of the time. It’s in the wee hours of the morning or in the evenings, trying to get something in at lunchtime, so time management is so important.”
Beyond scheduling blocks of time during the day, Swanger also suggests that students think long-term about their path to success.
“We recommend scheduling out their time on their calendars, almost setting it up like a school setting,” Brittany said. “Also making sure that they’re breaking [the course] down in chunks so it’s actually attainable. We really like students to take the time and build out their schedules and time to their next goal, capstone, evaluation, or mock interview so they’re breaking things down.”
Advocate for Students
There’s another side to the ASM job at Thinkful besides supporting students in their journey. ASMs also ensure that the student’s voices are heard whenever there may be changes that can affect them coming down the pipeline.
“We’re the student advocate. We are very much student-facing, so we get the opportunity to chat with students, onboard them, and send them emails,” Brittany said. “On the Thinkful side, we’re their advocate. We’re making sure that policy, procedures, operational changes, curriculum updates, and more are student-first. [The ASM job] is centered around optimizing the student experience and making sure that it’s the most positive and productive thing for them. If they’re trusting us with their money, time, and energy, we want to ensure that we’re showing up for them.”
Encourage Students to Celebrate
It’s not all about working towards the next goal. Brittany also likes for students to schedule some time to appreciate how far they’ve come from their first day at Thinkful.
“One thing I love my students to do is to celebrate every single thing that they’re going through in their journey and honoring that in themselves,” Brittany said. “They made a sacrifice to be here, whether that was time, money, energy, and so I want to make sure that they honor that within themselves. So really making sure they’re building out the time in their day, in their week, and in their life to give Thinkful its due and then spend the rest of it doing what they want to do.”
And there’s a lot to celebrate at Thinkful. You’re taking the first step towards a stable and lucrative career. Though there will be plenty of challenges along the way, you’ll be able to overcome them with the tools you already have within: your will and intelligence.
Even if you find yourself at a point in your journey where you have to step away from Thinkful, Brittany doesn’t think students should view their efforts as a failure. They tried something new, and even if it doesn’t work out, that’s something to be proud of.
“My favorite quote is ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ Every single journey’s different. If you’ve taken that first step of saying you want to try, maybe you’re wildly successful, maybe you’re not, and that’s ok,” Brittany said. “Because you never would’ve known your potential, you never would’ve known the opportunities or the resources that lay ahead of you. You never would’ve walked this beautiful journey that we call life had you not just taken one step in front of the other. So no matter the outcome, I always try to remind students when they start that this is going to be a beautiful journey for them and that they’re just learning along the way.”
Long-Lasting Career Support
The ASM pairs with a student from the beginning of their time in the program, and sticks with them until they start hunting for a job. But the relationship doesn’t end after your last day of class.
Brittany says that she regularly hears from students that she’s helped. She encourages students to add her on LinkedIn so she can continue to support them with recommendations and more after they’ve graduated.
“You can imagine when you’re spending six months with someone, even if it’s over email and video once in a while you end up developing a relationship with them,” Brittany said. “So excited as I am for them to go into the job search and spread their wings, I do love it every once in a while when I get to celebrate their successes with them because I know I got to be a part of that and that’s a really blessed place to be.”
Career Success Through Thinkful
The ASMs at Thinkful are an important part of the support system that’s made Thinkful one of the best bootcamps in the business. These people are driven by student success, and they devote all of their time to ensuring students are in the best position to succeed.
As the 85% average job placement rate shows, Thinkful is invested in producing real results for its students. All of its employees are committed to that mission, and working hard to ensure that every fiber of the Thinkful experience exceeds expectations.
If you’re interested in starting a new career with an advocate like Brittany on your side, start your application process today. You can also check this detailed Thinkful review to learn more about this school.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.