The Bradfield Computer Science Intensive

Note: applications have now closed for the cohort starting summer 2020. Applications for the next cohort will open in October 2020, for a February 2021 start date.


Bradfield CSI is an intensive, 12 month, live online program covering the core computer science concepts and engineering practices expected from senior software engineers at the industry's top companies. It is intended for early-to-mid career engineers wishing to expedite their path to higher impact, more fulfilling, and better remunerated roles.

It has never been easier to become a software engineer, even without a traditional computer science education. However, there is a widening gap between those who simply develop applications, and those who can understand, design, build, and maintain large-scale systems. Bradfield CSI is designed to help students methodically bridge this gap, without the expense or time commitment of a traditional master's program.

Program structure

  • Duration: 12 months
  • Time commitment: 10-15 hours/week
  • Cohort size: capped at 20
  • Price: $19,500, with payment plans available

The program will involve a 6-8 week preparation phase, 32 weeks of live instruction, and an 8 week capstone project and assessment phase. During the live instruction phase, students will complete 8 modules, each 4 weeks long. There will be breaks between modules. Throughout the program, students will also participate in weekly seminars on teamwork, communication, and career development.

Each module consists of 2 live classes per week (5pm-6:30pm PT, Monday and Thursday evenings, and conducted via Zoom) as well as associated pre- and post-class work involving interactive courseware, short programming exercises, and reading assignments. The expected time commitment is approximately 10-15 hours per week.

Existing Bradfield students who wish to join the program are offered a tuition rebate of 1.2x any tuition paid to date for Bradfield courses (e.g. if you have taken two Bradfield courses with tuititon totalling $3,600, your tuition for Bradfield CSI would be $19,500 - 1.2 * $3,600 = $15,180).

Self-paced preparation phase

Prior to the start of the course, students will be provided with self-paced material covering:

  • Algorithmic analysis and fundamental algorithms and data structures
  • Basic discrete mathematics
  • Programming practice in Go and C
  • Practice utilizing common command line tools

The preparation phase is designed to ensure that every student enters with baseline understanding and skills that we'll assume thereafter.

The primary language for the program is Go, given its appropriateness and increasing popularity for systems programming. While advanced Go usage which will be covered in the live instruction phase, students are expected to enter with a basic level of familiarity. C is used sparingly in the course, to highlight low-level systems concepts as necessary.

Modules

Module Description Example exercises
1. Introduction to Computer Systems Machine representations of data and programs, the CPU execution model, exceptional control flow, low level programming, reverse engineering x86-64 and optimization, all from a programmer’s perspective. Implement a basic virtual machine, reverse engineer x86 assembly, refactor a Go program to improve CPU cache utilization, write a shell with job control.
2. Advanced Programming Techniques and practices we expect of seasoned programmers, such as program design, language paradigms and patterns, concurrent programming, portability and interoperability, testing, and profiling. Refactor interfaces of existing Go code, profile and optimize an I/O intensive application, configure the garbage collector to reduce latency, detect and fix deadlocks in a concurrent program, interface with C code using cgo.
3. Data Structures for Storage and Retrieval An in depth look at some important data structures including B-trees, Log-Structured Merge Trees and Bloom filters. Optimize performance of a RocksDB database by understanding and tuning the block cache, compaction, and Bloom filter configuration.
4. Computer Networks Understanding network protocols (particularly at the application, transport and network layers) with a focus on programming networked applications, understanding network infrastructure, and working with third party systems (such as cloud providers and third party CDNs etc). Parse a packet capture file, write a DNS client, write an HTTP proxy, and configure a VPC on AWS.
5. Operating System Principles and Interfaces Learning how best to utilize the systems that sit between our applications and our computer systems, covering topics such as memory virtualization, task scheduling, file systems, and OS-level concurrency primitives. Create a simple file system with FUSE, create a simple container framework using cgroups, implement green threads on top of POSIX threads, measure a program's cache misses and page faults.
6. Relational Databases Understanding, effectively using, and optimizing relational database systems. Optimize complex queries in PostgreSQL by reading EXPLAIN statements, parse the PostgreSQL WAL for the purpose of change data capture, and identify and fix isolation anomalies.
7. Distributed Systems Understanding principles and practical considerations for building high-scale data-intensive applications, and learning to reason about tradeoffs between fault tolerance, latency, throughput, consistency and operational overhead. Design and implement a simple distributed key-value store.
8. System Design and Operation System design practice combining the conceptual material and technologies covered in other classes, with case studies from real systems, and operational considerations such as deployment, observability and maintenance. Each exercise will be a new system design problem.

Capstone Project

Students will have 8 weeks to design, implement, and deploy a production-quality system of their choice. Students may work individually or in small groups. Projects may range anywhere from robust implementations of individual papers (such as the Raft consensus protocol) to high-scale applications built on existing infrastructure (such as a highly scalable image hosting service on AWS). Students are recommended to choose their own projects, but instructors will also provide suggestions.

Additional Support

Throughout the course, students will have additional support in the form of:

  • Weekly seminars on teamwork, communication, and career development
  • Office hours
  • Code reviews
  • Discussion and feedback over Slack

Admissions

Students will be admitted on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and likelihood of success in the program. In particular, we’re looking for students who are productive programmers, versatile and motivated learners, and effective team members. A computer science degree is not required. However, industry experience is strongly recommended.

The admissions process involves:

  • A take-home exercise consisting of several programming questions and practical problems
  • An interview discussing the student’s solutions to the take-home exercise, as well as their goals and background

Graduation criteria

Students will graduate from the program upon completing:

  • The capstone project and its defense (answering questions from instructors and community experts)
  • A take-home exercise assessing key principles and knowledge across all modules
  • An extensive interview focused on system design

Instructors

The primary instructors for the program are Oz Nova and Elliott Jin.

Oz co-founded Bradfield in 2015, and has since taught a wide range of foundational computer science topics to hundreds of self-taught engineers and bootcamp graduates, one small class at a time. Previously he was CTO and co-founder of Vida Health and Topguest.

Elliott is an instructor and course developer at Bradfield. Previously he was a tech lead at Triplebyte, where he designed assessments for hiring software engineers, and a senior engineer at Dropbox, where he built a distributed search engine. In addition, he has experience as a mentor for the Google Summer of Code and a tutor at Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning.


Note: applications have now closed for the cohort starting summer 2020. Applications for the next cohort will open in October 2020, for a February 2021 start date.