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Coding Bootcamps: What They Don’t Tell You

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Know some insider tips and secrets about coding bootcamps from a guy who graduated and taught in one. This is part 2 of from the series based on our Codementor Office Hours with Haseeb.


I guess the secret’s out—you don’t really need a computer science degree to get hired by top tech companies. But it doesn’t mean it’s any easier for anyone to just break in.

One way to kickstart a career in programming is to go through a coding bootcamp, which is like dev traineeship on steroids. This intensive training program is designed to get students prepared from noob to job-ready in a just a few weeks. If you’ve been reading about all the success stories from coding bootcamp graduates, the program obviously has worked. But maybe you’ve heard about how coding bootcamps didn’t work for others, too.

Both students and schools had their fair share of overhyping or demonizing coding bootcamps, and as with anything, use your better judgement when choosing which is better for you. But before you decide, here are some things coding bootcamps don’t really tell you about.

 

It may not be for everyone

Just because coding bootcamps worked for others, doesn’t automatically mean it will work for you. And maybe the reason bootcamps didn’t work for some is that it really wasn’t right for them in the first place, but they still went through with it because of all the wonderful things they’ve been hearing about it. It is not fool-proof, and you have to take into consideration your personal preferences.

Coding bootcamps might work for you if you:

  • Prefer a more structured approach to learning with curriculums, lectures, tests, etc. provided by most coding bootcamps
  • Can commit 9–12 dedicated weeks (which is long or short depending on what you compare it with);
  • Don’t mind spending for your training.

However, if you think you’ll be much better off taking your time to learn things, or if personally choosing which topics you want to learn is something more beneficial for you, then self-study could be better. Maybe you’ll be more certain with your decision after you read this piece about the difference between self-learning and bootcamps.

Alternatively, if you feel having a diploma is a major factor to consider for your growth, then perhaps a university computer science degree is really what you want. I’m loath to say there’s a better or worse learning format; but definitely only go through a bootcamp if they align with your priorities.

 

You are motivated; but is it the right motivation?

People get into programming for all sorts of reasons. With the tech industry growing and growing every year, it’s not unusual to find people who are in it just to earn money—a lot of money.

Sure, money isn’t really that bad of a motivation to have, especially when you’ll use it for the improvement of your life and the people around you. But for programming, especially if you undergo a coding bootcamp, you need to be able to put the work in. If money is the only motivation, you might burnout fast and miss out on what programming really is. However, you don’t have to be 200% passionate about it either—at least be genuinely interested in it.

Yes, there’s plenty of earning opportunities  in programming, and going through coding bootcamps can help you get it fast, but the only way you will earn a pretty penny is if you want to build something, and build it the best way you can. Maybe a better way to look at it is to strive to be good at it so you can earn from it. So the better you are, the better earning opportunities you might have.

 

It’s an investment, both in time and money

A coding bootcamp is an alternative educational path that will take less time and money than a 4-year computer science degree.

However, just because you will only take it for a few weeks, doesn’t mean it’s a lot easier than a university degree. In fact, because it is shorter, it also means everything is compressed within those few weeks. It’s quick and intense; hence “bootcamp”, so it may only be for a couple of weeks, but those weeks are filled with days of non-stop learning.

What’s more, although bootcamps are cheaper than college, with the abundance of free resources online, there are still cheaper (free) options. Essentially, you pay bootcamps to accelerate the pace of your learning and be surrounded by a community of professionals who would help you get through the very crucial first hurdle of learning how to code.

Sure, a college degree is probably a bigger commitment, but the time and money you will put into coding bootcamps will require you to dedicatedly invest your time and money, too. In other words, if you think you can’t devote three to four months to just coding everyday, or if the cost is a major issue you can’t ignore, then perhaps you should reconsider.

 

There are not-so-good bootcamps; same way as there are not-so-good developers

Not all coding bootcamps are created equal, and some may be better for you than others for the simple reason that they’re more affordable, closer to where you live, or the class will start on your ideal date. Those are all factors to consider when choosing between bootcamps.

That said, bootcamps are generally considered good if they have high standards for acceptance of applicants and a strong set of rules for removing students from the program. They would also have a healthy and diverse community of mentors, where teachers are seasoned pros, and all these components must be cohesively incorporated in a strong curriculum with a variety of progressive projects as the learning advances. One should also be wary of bootcamps that guarantee to give you a high-paying job straight after you finish the program.

 

You will have invaluable connections

A good bootcamp will not only help you learn how to code but it should also help you grasp what it is like to be a developer by being involved and building one’s network in a community. You will be surrounded by peers, developers, experts, and even be exposed to a bigger programming community. The social component of bootcamps will help you gain more confidence when coding and solving problems. These things are best learned via context and being around other developers, or even having a mentor to guide you will definitely be advantageous along the way. Plus, the connections you establish can even help you after you finish the program.

 

You are not automatically a pro after the program

Any coding school that promises that you will become a pro after the program may be overselling the bootcamp experience a little bit. Even if bootcamps are highly intensive, technology is constantly changing, and naturally, you will not master everything after the program. Because really, no one is an expert in anything after just learning about it, and bootcamps are definitely not an easy fix to help you get on your programming aspirations.

In fact, there might still be a possibility that some companies won’t take you seriously because you graduated from a bootcamp. Each company has their own preferences afterall. The only way to make you really ready for the job market is to continue coding and building after the bootcamp has ended. Join Codewars or other similar websites so you can continue practicing real coding challenges. Continue to challenge yourself with these free resources you can try now.

You still may not be a pro after the bootcamp, but you will feel like one when you feel confident with what you do; and having confidence in what you do will help you get better opportunities.

 

It won’t guarantee a job immediately after

Learning through a coding bootcamp is perhaps one of the best ways for you to break into the field of programming, but it’s still not a guarantee that you will. According to Course Report’s most recent research, only 66% of graduates are finding full-time employment after graduating from a bootcamp. The percentage is relatively high but there are still a portion of graduates who struggle.

It’s an unfair assumption that bootcamps will automatically get you the job you want right after you finish the program—it won’t, same way as a CS degree will not automatically guarantee you work either.

At best, bootcamps can offer you a foot in the door and it’s still up to you to move the other foot forward. With bootcamps, you will really reap what you sow. If you want to get hired, there’s more hustling to do after the bootcamp.

What coding bootcamps will do, however, is show your potential employer that finally, you have arrived. Having a solid portfolio, good example code, the confidence to discuss programming problems, and the right mindset will show that you know your stuff, and that’s something employers are looking for regardless of where you learned how to code.

 

Other Posts in this Series:



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Software engineer @ Airbnb, Ruby on Rails developer
I'm a software engineer at Airbnb. A year ago, I decided to enter App Academy, the top web development and programming bootcamp in San Francisco. I was the top student in my cohort. 8 weeks...
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