If you are a web or software developer or even just come into contact with those types of people regularly, you’ve probably seen the ads for code camps come across your social feeds. You know the ones, they say you can learn the skills to land a $60k+/year job in just a few months. Some even say it only takes a few weeks!
Let’s get something straight, you cannot learn how to program in a matter of weeks. It’s just not possible. In fact, it’s almost disrespectful to actual programmers to think that you can. Learning to program is a lifelong commitment. No one on this planet knows everything about every programming language. There really isn’t an end to this path. You can choose to get off it at any point, but that doesn’t mean you have learned everything there is to know.
Okay, I’ll step down off my soapbox and get back to the original topic. So you’ve just completed a dev bootcamp and you are getting ready to enter the job market? What now?
Recently, I’ve had a few opportunities to speak with new graduates from some local dev camps/schools. The ‘roundtable’ setup was a little more relational than a typical presentation and provided an opportunity to really connect and answer specific questions. After a couple of these sessions, I started noticing some trends in the questions asked, and the answers given. Here are two of the questions I get the most often, and my usual responses:
What’s the best way to get ready for a code interview?
There are a few forms of this question that get asked, but ultimately, the question boils down to this;
“How do I to get ready for an interview?”
There are a few things you can do in this situation. Obviously, you want to study the languages and tools that meet your desired job requirements. Here’s what I found myself saying again and again, ‘Study the concepts of programming, not the syntax.’.
Don’t get me wrong, syntax is important. You won’t get anything done efficiently if you don’t know the syntax of the language. But even more important is how you are writing your solution. Being able to show a high- level understanding of the tools of your trade is key. No one expects you to know all of the little syntax nuances and ‘gotchas’ of a specific language at this point.
Here are some basic, universal concepts that you can study before your first interview.
- Basics of OOP
- Classes and inheritance
- Asynchronous vs. synchronous (callbacks)
- Pure functions
- Basics of Functional Programming
You may not actually use all of these concepts in your daily work, but having a handle on them will help you become a more well-rounded, language-agnostic programmer.
Front-end devs (a popular output of the dev boot camps) should also study DOM manipulation strategies. Although we won’t be going backward, it’s worth taking a look at how we interacted with the DOM before tools like React.
What framework(s) should I learn?
DON’T LEARN FRAMEWORKS!
Now I realize that statement has controversy written all over it, but give me a moment to explain. Learning a framework at this stage may feel like a good thing to do, but it can pigeon-hole your thought process if you don’t fully understand what’s happening.
On the surface, a framework is simply someone else’s idea of how you should solve a set of problems. That’s really it. It’s a grouping of methods, ideas and best practices put together in a way that makes it easy for the user to get their work done. The truth is, anyone can build their own framework. It’s not for everyone, but it can teach you a lot about general programming. And if building your own feels way too overwhelming (it probably should at this point in your career), I recommend studying a few frameworks. Learning only one framework will give you a very narrow view of how the language can be used. So my proposal is that you skip learning a single framework and instead focus on understanding the concepts within them. That knowledge will outlive most frameworks anyway!
Manage your expectations
I know it may sound like I’m being critical of these bootcamps, and to some degree, yes, I think there are better (and cheaper) ways to learn programming. However, I should let you know that I have hired a few devs from a local bootcamp, and they rock! Their advice to fellow bootcamp goers is this: Manage your expectations.
People that have zero experience and expect to go through a bootcamp and come out the other side with a high-paying job, are just delirious. Be prepared for it to take up to 6 months, after you graduate, to find your first job … and don’t expect a $75,000/year job either. As with most things in life, it’s a process. Stick with it though, it’s worth it, I promise.