Considering a Coding Bootcamp

About a year and some change since graduating my coding school I’ve been asked by countless friends/friends of friends for advice on how they can begin their career in programming. After describing my experience, 3 of my friends since have taken the initiative to join and graduate/or are currently enrolled in bootcamps. So I figure it’s past time to write a blog to anyone else who is exploring how to make the jump.

I’ll start with some very general projections about the tech field, share my own background, course experience, post graduation results and my conclusion on it.

Tech

You’ve probably heard the scare that there’s been an investment bubble growing in the tech industry that is close to bursting. While I don’t believe this is the case the fallout of a market overvaluation would be nothing like the scale of the dotcom crash, anyways.

Stocks are not that wobbly anymore, and investors are less headstrong and more cognizant of the volatile risk of their financial security.

“Software Engineer jobs are expected to increase by 18.8% by 2024, nearly triple the rate of overall job growth.” — Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Unexpectedly the market for vocational tech schools is expanding rapidly. There was a 138% increase in dev graduates in 2015 compared to a year earlier. There will likely be a saturation in urban areas, particularly now that the Department of Education wants to allow financial assistance to those seeking enrollment: they released a pilot program late last year. While unaccredited and self sustaining, student loans were not previously eligible to bootcamp attendees.

If this comes into effect we can expect a jump in tuition fees in bootcamps, so they can collect more government-aid money. The benefit from it is that everyone can now have the chance to pursue their dreams in coding. But a nascent, and once esoteric market, bootcamps have outwardly carved themselves as a vocational option mainly for those who, by majority, have previous education experience. In essence that means if a typical enrollee either

A. finds it wasn’t for them

B. finds it difficult getting a foothold in the field or

C. just wants to compliment their preexisting career

They won’t be saddled in debt for years, or are more likely to have previous career experience to lessen the burden.

Background

In Spring 2015 I graduated from a Ruby on Rails Boston coding bootcamp called Launch Academy.

The 10-week program (and 8 week online prep) cost me $12,000 (before loan interest) and the immersive nature of the course meant I had to leave my job as a Medical Technologist II, where I had been making a pretty substantial salary for my age.

I had a BS in Biology and absolutely zero coding experience.

Looking at those facts alone, making the transition looked like an impulsive, high-risk jump. I hadn’t saved up much money, and I would be competing against CS grads with years more experience.

Course Experience

The program was challenging, and required full immersion. This invigorated my excitement and passion for the work and reinforced my decision.

My particular program taught us “full stack development” so we got to work on both server and client-side, and then shape our future path by what side interested us most.

A lot of the work was fundamental, but laid the groundwork for a strong capacity for expansion once working on the field. Nearly all of the Javascript I know I learned at my current company.

Post Graduation

I had an initial hitch in the beginning. But because of the confidence and reinforcement I gained from Launch I was not deterred from pursuing this career change to the fullest extent:

After graduation I enthusiastically moved in with my Nana and her fiance in Providence, to try an apprenticeship role at a newly founded startup incubator. I was the first junior person brought on, the rest of the team, all remote, were senior devs. The company itself was in a period of client transition and workload increase and so had miscalculated the available time for me to get guidance and direction. After 3 months, my role ended due to being unable to allocate training for a junior.

While not motivationally deflated, it was a devastating blow. I asked my boss, and myself repeatedly what I did wrong. I has constantly been checking the pulse with my training projects, asking for feedback every week and receiving glowing reviews. It took me a long time to come fully to terms with it, but the very unexpected conversation that Monday morning was just a hard reminder that brand new companies are volatile as shit.

And so I went to the nearest place I could find that would serve alcohol on a Monday at 10am and, Bloody Mary in one hand, wrote out the steps for what needed to happen next.

After less than a month of searching, living off unemployment and feverishly spamming out applications every day, I interviewed my way to not 1, but 2 job offers! I ended up going with a company in Cambridge and moving back to Boston.

Now

I am nearing 9 months with Tenizen as a Software Engineer and absolutely love it. I have gained the bulk of my lower level experience on the job, doing my own research when needed, and reinforcing what I already learned. I am surprised to find how well I can hold my own (relatively) with others in my department, some of whom have decades more experience than I do.

The biggest thing with programming in the beginning is not what you already know, it’s knowing how to find out as efficiently as possible.

I feel confident in my understanding of Rails, and while there is always always more to learn I’ve found interest in a more niche area of engineering, more big data analysis. This is another area where I’ll nearly be starting from scratch, but I now have the right fundamentals to prepare for it, and continue to hone my skills in a now practical sense. I’ve started with MITs wonderful OpenCourseWare for learning Statistics.

Conclusion

So that’s my single-sample story to those interested in pursuing programming. Hopefully my own experience can offer some insight but remember each person is different.

Consider your own unique case, what you expect from it, what areas of intelligence you are proficient in, and good luck!


Published in Techspiration + Ideas + Making It Happen.