They’re a good start, but companies hire employees, not resumes.
I started out at St. John’s University, double majoring in cyber security systems and mathematics. After a few semesters there, I realized I didn’t like the programs as much as I initially thought I would.
I left St. John’s and transferred to Stony Brook University, where I dropped the cyber security major and added on theoretical physics. Once again, I left college, but this time, I felt that college just wasn’t for me.
I later applied and got accepted to the Flatiron School, a fifteen-week immersive software engineering bootcamp in Brooklyn, New York. I am currently in week eleven, and as I am finishing up, it is natural to think about the road ahead.
What does academic experience give you?
Traditional degrees, technical degrees, certifications, bootcamps and other forms of academic success can bring a lot to the table. It will look great for resumes, aptitude for learning new things, and a general sticktoitiveness. It can qualify you further in job searches when candidates are sorted out of the hiring process.
Degrees, certifications, and other means of academic qualifications prove to a potential employer that you know your stuff, and the institution from which you graduated is willing to vouch for your knowledge.
What academic experience doesn’t (inherently) give you:
- Extensive (and relevant!) experience in the field
- Vast knowledge of cutting edge technology
- A growing network
- Proof that you are (or will be) a good employee
Although completion of an academic program shows willingness to complete projects, meet deadlines and more, companies are looking for more than that. They are looking for a determined person who will fit well in their work environment.
What you are expected to fill in before becoming a valued member of the workforce:
- Strong Git Hub presence
- Proven ability to take initiative
- Demonstrated natural curiosity
- Ability to think critically and analytically in high pressured environments
Strong GitHub presence
You can also create your own projects. You can look at others’ repos for inspiration, but if you create your own projects, it will show enthusiasm, motivation, and curiosity.
Proven ability to take initiative
This you can also achieve through supporting open source projects or creating your own repos on GitHub.
You can also tackle this by practicing code challenges on websites like CodeWars, Codility, HackerRank, LeetCode, and more. You will increase your marketability and your personal brand while sharpening your technical skills.
Demonstrated natural curiosity
You may be surprised to read that I would suggest supporting open source projects here. In contributing to open source, you are also showing potential employers that you’re naturally curious and like coming up with solutions to problems.
Ability to think critically and analytically in high pressured environments
Raymond Gan had an interesting point in one of his articles, and I love the way he put it for a number of reasons.
“Interviewing for a software team is like auditioning for a band. You’re trying to join the Beatles. That’s why it’s insanely competitive to get a software job and why companies only hire <1% of software applicants. For each software job, you compete against hundreds of others. All my software teams have been small, just 2–5 people, but we may serve thousands or millions of customers (fans). They’re small even at huge companies; my team at Disney-ABC TV was just 2 people. Let’s say you’re the head of a rock band. You seek a guitar player. A guy walks in to audition, saying: ‘I’m a full stack musician. I’ve done 3 weeks of guitar, 3 weeks of drums, and 3 weeks of piano. I just graduated from 3 months of “rock musician bootcamp.” I’m ready for the Beatles now.’”
Gan illustrates the ridiculousness of this idea of being ready to join one of the greatest rock bands of all time by being a well rounded musician. This analogy is especially apropos because, as Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book, The Outliers, he tells us that the Beatles spent about 10,000 hours of playing together at the same run-down pub in Germany.
In order to be really good at something, you need a lot of practice. That is something that fifteen-week bootcamp will not give you. The bootcamp will give you the tools and basic knowledge to empower yourself, but you need to put in a lot of time to really get good at something.
Even spending years at an academic institution isn’t going to be enough. 10,000 hours is 20 hours/week for a decade.
Bootcamps and degrees are great to start, but in order to make it in the tech industry…
- Contribute to open source.
- Create your own projects.
- Practice code challenges.
- Read up and keep increasing your knowledge base.
You will be a strong developer in no time, if you discipline yourself. There are no shortcuts to success in tech.