This is NOT Another “My Bootcamp Experience” Post

July 6th marked the one year anniversary since I made the decision to attend a coding bootcamp and change my career path. No, that was not my first at the bootcamp, but rather the day I concluded it was the path for me. I spent the next five months planning and saving so I could quit my job and begin the journey to my career. That said, the goal of this post is not to provide a dive deep into my experience at a coding bootcamp. A quick Google search of “my experience in coding bootcamp” will yield a plethora of blog posts and YouTube videos that provide numerous versions of such a deep dive. My goal here is to leave you with five pertinent (and candid) takeaways for you to keep in mind as you vet the viability of attending a bootcamp yourself.

All coding bootcamps are NOT created equal

Remember that Google search I recommended before? If you look through enough of those search results, you are bound to come across a couple of people who did not have a positive bootcamp experience. Bootcamps are expensive. Many onsite options range from $10,000 — $20,000. When you factor in the opportunity cost of not working for three to six months, its true cost is even higher.

You should thoroughly vet bootcamps before committing to one. This may seem like an obvious move to some, but in the excitement of making such a major commitment one can sometimes lose sight of performing their due diligence. Consider multiple bootcamps. There are a lot of bootcamps to choose from today. Not all of them are created equal. I came across numerous bootcamps during my search including Zip Code, Coding Dojo, Betamore, and General Assembly. I ultimately decided on Coding Dojo as their program offered me not only the opportunity to learn the Python and MEAN stacks, two stacks I had an interest in learning to further my newly evolving programming skills, but also because their focus is also centered on learning how to learn how to code. I did not want to go to a bootcamp where the focus was simply on lecturing you on the coding standards of today. I wanted, and needed, a place where I could cultivate my ability to learn and apply new skills and technologies.

While Zip Code, Betamore, and General Assembly all provided strong programs, Coding Dojo was the best fit for me. Make sure you diligently vet all bootcamps you are considering. Be unapologetic about the due diligence you perform and select the option that is best for you.

Prepare

Prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. Piss poor performance produces pain. The Twelve P’s is a great mantra to remember when embarking on this journey. There are two key ways you need to prepare for a coding bootcamp; set your financial plan, and do pre work.

I am of the opinion that this process is best completed when you commit 100% of your time to it. I approached this with that perspective and am even more biased towards that mindset since finishing. Additionally, many coding bootcamps also strongly recommend this approach. The price tag you see for the program is just an aspect of the total cost for attending a coding bootcamp. Committing 100% of your time to this process means you will need money to live. If you are like me and have a family to support, then you will have to also factor this into your calculus. Consider your normal budget when planning your finances. Trim budgetary fat where possible. Unless you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about money then frugality will be your best friend here.

For some, financing this journey means borrowing money to attend bootcamp. While I did consider this route, I do not have a particular affinity for student loans and settled on saving the money myself over a 6 month period. While there is no shortage of lenders willing to finance your bootcamp journey, the most important aspect of loans often lost in the excitement is the reality of having to pay them back.

It is also important to complete work prior to starting your chosen bootcamp. I have seen the perspective of bootcamps regarding this span across the spectrum. Some recommend it while others have an established and required process for pre work. I recommend utilizing any one of many free resources available on the internet. This helps accomplish two key things. First, it gives you the opportunity to ensure this is truly the road you want to take. If spending an hour a day learning something new about coding or development seems like torture now, it will be unbearable during a bootcamp. It’s much better to find this out before investing thousands of dollars and countless hours of time on a bootcamp. Second, it gives you some level of foundational knowledge going into your bootcamp. Any help reducing the intensity of the learning curve will prove helpful. freeCodeCamp is a great resource for this. Udemy also provides access to some good resources.

You will get a great foundation to build your new career

An increasing number of employers are hiring bootcamp graduates. I believe at least part of this trend is owed to an appreciation for the level of practical and provable knowledge bootcamp graduates are bringing to the table. After attending a bootcamp you are armed with both the knowledge of not only how to write code, but also the ability to architect full stack web applications. This is no small feat; especially given the timeline of many coding bootcamps.

You will not come out prepared for every job opportunity (and that’s okay)

Armed with my new skills, I attacked the job market in dogged pursuit of my next opportunity. During this process I ultimately had a technical interview that I utterly bombed. I am talking about an interview that went so bad that I knew 10 minutes into it that I would not be continuing in the interview process. Did this mean that I was a terrible developer who wasted thousands of dollars and 20 weeks of his life trying to be something he could never be? Absolutely not! The reality is that if you go on enough interviews you are bound to run into a situation where you are interviewing for a role you do not have the knowledge set to enter into. The reality is also that the job market is flush with opportunity and the chances of you landing a role where they can contribute appears to be pretty high. Those that are geographically flexible will likely have an easier time landing that first role.

You literally get out of it what you put in

A bootcamp can only provide you with the structure, you have to invest the time into making the most of the journey. The reality is that much of the value that can be derived from attending a coding bootcamp is a function of time. Time learning. Time coding. Time debugging. Time coding some more then refactoring your code. Time. Time. More time. There will be some long days in front of your laptop much to the detriment of your social life. It’s best to set the proper expectations with your friends and family before you begin your journey. This not only helps them understand how life will be for you over the coming weeks but also helps you understand the gravity of what you are undertaking.

What to take away

Remember that this is your journey. It has to be worthwhile to you for it to be worthwhile. Do your research when vetting bootcamps. Don’t be afraid to ask them the difficult questions you may have. This is your time, money, and future. Be deliberate in your vetting then select the bootcamp that is the best fit for you. Prepare for your journey. Once you begin, always remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Invest into it what you expect to get out of it. Enjoy the ride. Be challenged, not stressed. Most importantly, have fun. Happy coding.