An Honest Review of PDX Code Guild, Portland, OR

NOTE: Still in DRAFT form, spring 2022. (“TK” is a placeholder term to help streamline editing)

Overall: 3/5 stars.
Rating an adult educational “school” is nothing like reviewing a restaurant! Most people give restaurants fickle 1- or 5-star reviews based on an average, excellent, or poor anecdote. While I often disagree with this, in the aggregate, it usually doesn’t matter for a restaurant. But a for-profit adult “school”, legally a company selling career advancement into the technology sector for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars? That’s not something to rate lightly.
Moreover, in college one might take dozens of courses over different subjects and with different instructors from different backgrounds. Here in adult education? One course, one instructor, (probably) just one time. That makes it even more difficult to appropriately review and compare.
Hence this honest review.

  • Good introduction to web development
  • Good general overview to many aspects of coding, ranging from front-end to back-end. TK
  • Decent human instruction


  • Good general overview? Yes. In-depth focus on any one given area? No.
  • No pressure to return in person
  • Director. She chooses instructors because they agree with her and seldom give criticism, and negative aspects of her personality permeate from the top down, even though I never knew this as a student. See below.
  • Easy curriculum — too easy.
  • Does not publish any data about alumni job success rates… Director will mislead you with positive selling points, but they do not provide any actual statistics, likely because they are depressing.
  • Easily expels or bans students for honest/constructive/respectful criticism of school curiculum or policies.

Portland, Oregon is home to many modern adult education “schools,” for-profit companies designed to train students — often adults re-directing their career paths — technical concepts like general programming, front- and back-end web development, engineering, or even trade school jobs like plumbing, carpentry, TK electrician, etc. PDX Code Guild is a primarily VA-funded company promoting a “Fulltime Python/JavaScript Fullstack Developer Bootcamp” course, which is also on record with the VA as a “14-week Python-Based developer bootcamp” course.
I took the course’s full day-course during the winter between 2020/2021, graduating in January 2021. During my job search in 2021, I did one rotation as a “Teaching Assistant” during a 2021 3-month summer course, before continuing the job hunt.
In March 2022, as an occasional member of the company’s online “Slack” community, I saw a student engaged in a technical debate who was quickly banned. I posted a response saying I disagreed with his ban because while he could have been slightly more respectful, he wasn’t overtly disrespectful or mean, and he was helping the community. I was banned for my support. A former instructor posted in support of my defense of the student, and he himself was banned. Fast-forward a few days… I appealed the ban in an e-mail to the Director and company’s advisors, received an angry reply (below), and several weeks later, learned that the Director (or someone on her behalf) had filed a VA harassment claim against me. Wow!
Buyer beware when entering this company/”school”/community! 
My advice for *veterans* who MUST choose a VET-TEC eligible school? Consider this one, but look elsewhere if you can avoid it.
My advice for students paying out of pocket: avoid the school at all costs! You are paying thousands of dollars of your own money: re-read this review at the very least! If the admission price (currently over $21,000) is only 1% of your liquid savings, and you don’t really care about the financial risk, then go for it. But if that’s a significant financial burden for you to change the course of your career, you are best directing that money to a school with A) a better track record and reviews, B) open information about the job-success rate of its graduates, and C) a more challenging curriculum where the administration is open to constructive criticism.
I am enormously fortunate my tuition was funded by the federal veterans programs, and knowing what I know now, I never would have spent my own money here. At the University of Hawaii or Arizona? Yes.
Here? No.
My advice for all kinds of students: learn everything you can, go above and beyond, but more importantly, network as much as possible! Start with the end goal in mind (your career) in most things you study and do. Avoid working for the school if you can avoid it, especially directly with the Director, as she will “turn” on you quickly and for any reason, especially for disagreeing with her, however constructively.
Again, to be clear: it’s possible to learn at and grow from this school.
If you’re a veteran and you have the time plus want a weak introduction to the course material on full-stack web development? It might work. But if you seriously believe you’ll need a job quickly (weeks or months), you may want to look into another school.
If you’re paying out of pocket, again, you should really consider looking elsewhere. At the LEAST, interview your future instructor and have your expectations in writing should the ‘school’ fail to meet your expectations. This is not a $5 cup of coffee or a $50 restaurant, it’s a huge investment for many people to make with their finances and time!——–

I only had one instructor, who I won’t name, and worked as his TA for my one 3-month class rotation. I also only had him virtually, making it even harder to judge. I would say the instructor was decent, a 3/5. Some aspects of his instruction ‘clicked’ for me, others did not and I struggled.
Sadly, as a TA for the same instructor, I quickly learned that many parts of his instruction were reading — almost word for word — from online documentation and scripts, like public Django tutorials. And that at about a $7,000/month price-tag for three months.
These are difficult criticisms. One, I know and have met this instructor several times in person, and he strikes me as a decent human being merely attempting to pay his rent. Two, on top of instructing technical materiel, he was attempting to do so solely virtually, with no physical feedback from students in person. And three, he was acting within the confines of a dictatorial-like company Director, probably with serious psychological issues.
So I sympathize.
Still, truly great instructors never let themselves get bored. They constantly engage with students and adapt material. And they constantly learn themselves.

Supplement 1 — My first and last communications with Director:

  • 20 August 2020, application to school, immediately adjacent to my initial interview :
    • “I read through a bit of your website. It’s some of the most thoughtful and gracious writing I read in a long time.”
  • [. . . several cordial emails, mostly administrative in nature during my time as a TA]
  • 5 March 2022.
    • [see the ‘background’ above]. Italics mine.
    • For what it’s worth, as this e-mail was addressed to both me and someone else who I’d never met nor privately communicated with, she does seem to be directing most of these sentences at him, not me. Still, the Director responded to my appeal against the Slack account ban:

I’m only aware of John’s email on a beautiful Saturday because of the phone calls I received from people concerned that you are harassing me. I will not read your email. I do not have time for you, nor am I interested in your toxic targeting of me. 
You need to stop  before I file a formal harassment complaint against you. Your harassment  and bullying of me need to stop immediately. You might also note that your messages and emails are on your permanent file and they are not a good look for you. 
DO NOT CONTACT ME ANY FURTHER, either by yourself or through a third party. 
She did file a (completely unfounded) harassment claim with the VA against me, and threatened me a few sentences later. Worse, I have since found that while most of the instructors at the company are reasonable, this sort of schizophrenic- or dictatorial-like behavior from the Director is quick common. If you are on her “good” side, you are the greatest person in the world; if you attempt to provide any level of constructive criticism, you are the current evil scapegoat and deserve to be imprisoned immediately. (A certain thin-skinned former President comes to mind…)
Sadly, the Director of the company seems to have these three priorities, in order:

  • Personal control of the company and its students
  • Financial profits for the LLC; since 2019 or 2020 it has been primarily funded via federal VET-TEC subsidies with military veteran students enrolled
  • The “school” environment, whose goal is to educate adult students with concepts in programming/development. She mostly leaves this to the instructors… but if/when suggestions come up which threaten her control, the person suggesting them is gaslighted, bullied, fired, insulted, harassed, or worse.

Unfortunately, her controlling personality and behavior are directly contrary to fostering a open-minded environment conducive to learning and growth.
It is far beyond my experience to comment on the difficult balancing act of managing the often competing goals of successfully educating students while simultaneously remaining financially profitable! I imagine college administrators everywhere, especially in the U.S., struggle with this, as well as many average professors. Moreover, it’s likely why so many public schools perform poorly in the country; as the funds they have available are insufficient to the educational needs required of schoolchildren and teenagers. Thus, colleges are expensive!
So I sympathize. There are many good people at the company, and most simply want to continue with their paid jobs without rocking the beat, while hopefully making a positive impact on people’s lives. Unfortunately