Want to keep your job while doing the bootcamp? Here’s why you most likely shouldn’t
You gave it a lot of thought and decided to enroll into a coding bootcamp. The only thing you’re still hesitant about is what to do with your current job. It would be nice to have a plan B after the bootcamp is over, paying for the course already ate up a big chunk of your savings and you can’t ask your parents for a loan. Ideally you would get your employer to agree to flexible working hours and do your job in the evenings and weekend, right?
As professionals of the XXI century, we like to believe we are good at multitasking. We are used to high-paced working environments and being faced with challenges that require excellent time management skills. It’s what we emphasise on our LinkedIn profiles and brag about in cover letters. That’s why you probably won’t like what I’m about to tell you: keeping your job while doing the bootcamp is not a good idea. Many schools will put it as a prerequisite, but here’s why you should give yourself a couple of weeks off even if your bootcamp doesn’t force you to do it.
You’ll be tired
A coding bootcamp is not a full time job. It’s way more. You start your classes in the morning, tackle lots of coding problems during the day and finish off with some more group programming. By the time you’re done for the day it might get dark (even if you don’t do your bootcamp in Scandinavia in wintertime). You’ll not only be tired physically but mentally exhausted too. Starting on your professional tasks at this point, and — even worse — pretending like you can be productive now, is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
You won’t be efficient
Exhaustion doesn’t pair well with productivity. Tiredness will affect your work, no doubt about that. If that’s not an issue for you, ask your employer if they won’t mind either. And if they don’t, maybe not having you around for a couple of weeks also wouldn’t be a problem?
You won’t learn as much as you could
The tiredness will have an impact on your learning as well. It’s no secret that our brains are not great at absorbing new information when we are sleep deprived. Rest is a part of the learning process. If you skip it, you’ll likely struggle even more than one anyway does in a bootcamp. Keep in mind that you’re paying a lot of money precisely to learn. Do your math and make sure that the money you earn in the duration of the bootcamp actually balances the money you waste by impairing your learning potential.
You’ll blame the program
Even though there are exceptions to every rule, I’ve seen it time after time: a student keeps their job, starts slowly falling behind from week 1 and soon after that raises complaints about the program. I’ve heard criticism about pretty much everything, starting with the teaching staff lacking skills, to written materials being insufficient, to the working area being too loud for the person to focus in. As much as all of these might be true for different bootcamps, in my experience the link between student’s exhaustion affecting their studying and how often they blame it on the external circumstances is clear.
You’ll miss out
A coding bootcamp is also a social experience and a great chance to network. Having to rush to your work straight after the classes will mean missing out on group dinners and afternoon drinks but also the extracurricular activities organised by the bootcamp staff, like meetups, talks and workshops. As much as they are facultative, they are also invaluable. Socialising with your peers, who are going through the same struggle as you are, can be comforting, but also educational. You can learn from each other’s experiences and build relationships for the future. And there’s no way of catching up on that when the bootcamp is finished.
So what if you have no choice but to keep your job?
First of all, make sure you explored all your alternatives.
- Many employers are open to sabbaticals. This way you get to keep your plan B for after the bootcamp while getting time off for the period of the course.
- Save up. Waiting a couple of months and saving up in the meantime might actually pay off more than trying to juggle too many balls at once.
- Ask family or friends for a loan. This way you don’t need to worry about the growing debt in a bank and the pay back date might be more flexible.
- Apply for grants. Many bootcamps offer different types of scholarships and discounts, which can drastically decrease the cost of your chosen course. Switchup keeps a list of external grants too.
- Bootstrap your funding. Get into the entrepreneurial mindset and launch a kickstarter campaign.
… and if there’s no other choice but to keep your job, here’s how to do it right:
Sleep whenever you can
No Netflix evenings, no late night skyping with friends. The time when you’re not learning and not working is for sleeping. I kid you not, you will need it and with each week you will need it more.
Become a time management master
Make detailed agendas and stick to them. Divide your time wisely between the bootcamp and the job. Writing things down can help getting a good overview. Always account for more time to learn than your gut tells you.
Expect a lot from yourself
This is not gonna be easy, which means you need to put in extra effort. If you start feeling overwhelmed, speak with your bootcamp manager and teachers, it’s likely they can offer some tips on how to best handle your situation. Always be honest with yourself. Try to imagine how the same situation would look like if you didn’t have to split your day between working and studying. Make sure you did everything in your power before pointing fingers at others.
Don’t beat yourself up
Not everything will work how you imagined. It probably wouldn’t even if you didn’t have a job to handle on the side. You might not manage to solve every coding challenge, or your peers might be way faster than you in grasping new concepts. That’s alright. Be realistic about your own capabilities, verify your goals (do you want to become a developer or maybe you just need a general overview of technicalities when dealing with software engineers?) and be a fair judge to yourself.
Completing a coding bootcamp while keeping your job is not impossible. But it sure is not easy. If you can avoid this multitasking, do so — I’m sure you’ll appreciate it down the road and get more out of your bootcamp. If you can’t, try to make the best out of the situation. Whichever path you choose, don’t forget that a bootcamp should also be fun. So work hard, code away and enjoy it! It will be over before you know it.