Most certainly you’ve clicked here because at some point in time you’ve considered enrolling into a coding bootcamp. I was the same. In fact, I’ve just completed my six month part-time stint at the start of April and wanted to share my experience (hopefully provide some insight along the way), and present some considerations that may help with your decision.
Note that I ramble quite a bit so do feel free to skim past the boring bits. Otherwise — TL;DR at the end.
To preface this, I am a Nurse by formal education and have been working as such for the past five years. Although it is a fantastic profession (and there are moments that remind me why I chose it), I found myself asking if I wanted to do this until retirement. Full time? most likely not, as the sense of fulfilment was often overshadowed by the mixture of work politics, overwork, and sometimes the unrealistic targets set by higher ups. Ultimately those that draw the shortest straw are the patients (I’ll end my ramble here and get back to the coding stuff). Perhaps you share a similar experience.
At the beginning of 2019, I purchased a few Udemy courses which are oft recommended online. For the most part (regarding value), with the unceasing sales you can’t really go wrong, however I did find the pacing of these classes rather slow (with the assistance lacking), and would eventually lose interest.
Hindsight is of course 20/20 and slight amusement is found in retrospect, however it was always important for my understanding what purpose each component plays in the grander scheme of things.
Eventually, I bit the bullet so to say, and enrolled to start October 2019. As a full-time worker I decided to reduce my hours in order to maximise my learning potential at the institute. With the financial commitment ($11.5k leaves a decent sized hole in an already dented wallet), alongside the time and further reduced income from working less hours, I began my six month journey.
On application, there is a brief online screening process involving a couple questions (nothing exceptional - which lead me to believe they were basically accepting anyone) and then a follow up phone call. All very easy — assuming this was the filtering process.
The start was full of excitement. It had been almost five years since I entered a Uni campus and just as long since I last sat in a taught class. A sense of refreshment with my laptop out, eager to learn alongside like minded people. The first few weeks went by fairly easily as they covered concepts that I was already familiar with.
In terms of structure, every week there was homework due relevant to the previous weeks topic. Throughout the course, we had a total of three main projects to complete — at weeks 7, 16, and 24. Each project was started two weeks before they were due — and these were mandatory in order to graduate.
Approaching the first project, we had been allocated into groups by our TA’s (Teaching Assistants). It was at this time it became apparent the discrepancies of skill levels between students. That’s not to say I am an amazing learner that absorbs everything and spits out twice as much knowledge back. No, rather the opposite in that I have to re-read things multiple times before it starts to make sense, and even then there isn’t a guarantee that it will. But it became quite notable that some students were far ahead in understanding fundamental concepts (in which it later made sense as they were already in an IT position), and others would struggle to navigate through file structures and opening new tabs.
I took a moment to reflect back to the screening process and how fairly lax I had found it.
My group of four shrunk to three as our team member hadn’t turned up to class one day and eventually didn’t return at all. It was unfortunate but circumstances occurred in which he couldn’t continue. Another member was struggling to grasp simple concepts, and difficulty arises as a group member when you want to be inclusive and enable equal opportunity but simultaneous want to produce the best project possible (perhaps a reflection of the industry). The difference so much as the 3 hour class time to accomplish a 5 minute task of creating a div with text. At the end of two weeks the presentation went well and we accomplished a project to be proud of.
The point to highlight is that the nature (and in essence the fundamental purpose) of a bootcamp results in a wide variety of students — from an individual whose work is funding their study, to an IT specialist looking to upskill — and irrespective of that, the focus should always be on self perseverance and self growth (whether that means doing majority of the group work).
Although it must be said that the best way to learn is to teach. I took those opportunities where a group member didn’t quite understand something to consolidate my own knowledge. And they too would return the favour. Everyone sees and understands things differently. Sometimes a different perspective is what’s needed to connect the dots.
The second project went similar to the first, except we had the option to select our group members. I might add that although this was the case, the reality of the matter was that unlike University (traditional pathways that consist mainly of high-school graduates), the majority of my cohort had life to deal (work, families, rent, etc. etc.). Consequently, this made it difficult to plan meetings times to suit everyone’s schedule thus limiting the cohesion of our project.
I may have a pull request pending that requires approval but none of my members may be available to review until a couple days due to various reasons, ultimately leaving that part of the project on hold. This was reciprocal as a member may also be seeking approval in which I had work the next few days.
*feel free to skip*
( For the readers that may be unfamiliar with git, branching, and PR ( pull requests ), essentially everyone had a local ( stored in their computer ) copy of the project that is stored online ( in a remote repository ). Whenever working on a new feature of the project, one member will “branch off”, and do all the work associated with the feature within said branch. Once the feature is complete, the member will create a PR that another member will then review and approve. Once approved, that branch can then be merged back into the master copy ( or master branch ) of the project. The benefit is that if someone else wants to work on the project, they can basically copy an uncontaminated version of the project ( via the master branch )).
By this stage in the bootcamp I was definitely outside the scope of knowledge that I had prior to starting. It took me a lot longer to digest new concepts and self discipline was surely being tested.
Feelings of frustration and jubilation oscillated as the wave of understanding would finally strike my brain to then be superseded by the turmoil of another bug. Might I mention the countless, innumerable errors and console.log()’s to match in search of the solution. To further point my struggles, the benefit of a singular language stack is just that — learning one language, however distinguishing what code was back-end and not front-end along with everything in between took some adjusting. Point being its not easy. But I expected this beforehand.
I also became best friends with google and stack overflow.
Demo Day and Future Progress
To achieve a head-start with the third project, a few of us formed a group prior. All good on paper aside from the fact that subtle (not so) hints that proceeded to follow from career services ushered us towards a doing a solo endeavour. Ultimately a solo made sense as it presented the best case to showcase all that we had learned, nevertheless an impression to do groups was left from the prior two projects. Being told upfront that a solo was preferred would have saved time.
To be honest, doing a solo didn’t even cross my mind beforehand as an option as I was under the assumption this was a group effort.
The final demo day in which we presented to the IP (Industry People) took place online via zoom link. By this stage the Uni was required to cease onsite classes due to the global pandemic, and so the remainder of 2 weeks was taught off-site. The last two weeks of the bootcamp primarily focused on the completion of project three (the repository in which to showcase everything we had learned throughout the 24 weeks), alongside learning Computer Science concepts (Data Structures and Algorithms).
Although unfortunately limited to online contact, presenting to IP for the first time was a fantastic experience. For the most part they were attentive, considerate, gave critical feedback, and were encouraging. We concluded by sharing LinkedIn’s and receiving our certificates (virtually!).
TL;DR — To cut a long story short: my take
- Financially — it isn’t cheap. If enrolling means putting yourself into financial hardship it’s probably best to reconsider. Bootcamp cost varies largely between institutes — make sure to do your research.
- Exhausted free resources — make sure you utilize as much free resources as possible. Heck, you can even pass on Udemy and watch YouTube videos — there’s multiple fantastic coding Tubers. Simultaneously, this will also serve as a test to see whether this is something that you are passionate about.
- Onsite vs Offsite — personally, I wanted to be onsite and have physical interactions; not only with the teaching staff, but also with my peers. In saying that, online teaching can prove a more accessible means if your current situations is prohibitive of onsite learning.
- Some charge more, some offer certification — I believe some will charge more as they provide an accredited certification on completion? (as in the certificate is recognised) please correct me here. In saying that though, what’s most valuable is the skills attained throughout the course, the certification on completion essentially holds no bearing.
- Current situation — make sure you are able to dedicate yourself to this craft for a solid *insert bootcamp length here* and onward as this isn’t a walk in the park. Although you probably already knew that.
- Is this really for you — check yourself and be honest if this is really for you. Because at the end of the day if you’re reading this, then you’re most likely trying to transition into tech, and if it isn’t really your cup of tea then its probably better to cut it early as later down the line you’ll most likely end up in the same situation.
Things to expect:
- Mentally exhausting at times (especially when you just ain’t getting it). There will definitely be times when you want to throw that cup full of coffee through the screen.
- A varying level of learning capability between students — some may appear so advanced to you and squash your confidence, otherwise less so and you may end up doing the heavy lifting in a group project.
- The bootcamp is just the beginning and a lot of time will be spent post-camp polishing professional links, consolidating knowledge and revisiting previous activities (which is where I’m currently at).
- I have yet to experience this, but the potential stigma of being a bootcamp graduate.
TL;DR to my TL;DR
If you take the leap of faith then go all in and make the most of it. As cliche as it may sound, you will most definitely get out what you put in. And don’t forget (especially when you’re doubting yourself), if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. With regards to the future after bootcamp, that is something I’m still trying to figure out at this time.
If you made here, you’re an absolute champion! Feel free to get in touch with me or leave a comment down below :)