If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your education at schools that resemble restaurants — where you show up, sit down and expect to have your hunger satisfied. The food, some of which you selected and some of which was chosen for you, is cooked and served by other people. Depending on the talent of the cooks and quality of the ingredients, sometimes the meal will be great. Other times, it will be disappointing.
This metaphor is one that is shared with each new cohort of students on their first day of Dev Bootcamp. The school does this to set expectations — because Dev Bootcamp is not a restaurant. It is a kitchen.
In a well-run kitchen, you should have all the tools, ingredients and guidance you need to make anything that might satisfy your hunger. You don’t need to follow a recipe. You can add ingredients that suit your diet. And while your first attempt at a soufflé may not look or taste as good as one you’d find in a fancy restaurant, it will be yours. You will be able to make it on your own and eat it whenever you like.
Throughout my life, I have been guilty of holding one school or another responsible for my education — paying more attention to the question: “did I like this class?” rather than “did I get what I wanted to learn from this class?” I’ve grown to understand that instead of trying to adjust my career path to fit a set degree or attempting to gain mastery in a subject based on the curriculum outlined in a syllabus, it’s essential to start with the simple question: what do I want to learn?
A typical university is trying to serve many purposes at the same time; from producing cutting-edge research to providing its students with a brand that signals excellence. Schools do their best to cover a very broad range of subjects; however, there are limits to the depth they are able to reach. Often you may be more equipped to prepare yourself for your dream career than your school. Taking a class will sometimes be the perfect recipe, but many times it’s worth considering resources like MOOCs, books, or doing unpaid work for a company you admire.
Students at Dev Bootcamp spend the majority of their days working in groups on code challenges and on building web apps. During the few hours of lecture time each week, students are encouraged to decide for themselves whether a lecture is the best use of their time, and if not, to find something to learn or practice that they find more valuable. At Tradecraft, an immersive program that trains people to fill traction roles at startups, students have the space to find companies that they admire and do usability tests of their products. By setting their own educational priorities, students, in these immersive programs and others like it, have been able to enhance their skills and land great entry-level jobs in the course of only 3–4 months.
Each of us is responsible for building a foundation for the life we want to live. So go out, source the ingredients yourself, and don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get messy.