TIL: "Why sign up for a coding Bootcamp course"

Computer science is not just for smart ‘nerds’ in hoodies coding in basements. Coding is extremely creative and is an integral part of almost every industry. Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani

A little backstory

This post is going to be rather long and honest… but I promise there is a point. When I got out of the US Navy, I was having a kid about 3 months later. We lived in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 800 sqft, apartment trying to rub pennies together to afford moving, a baby, and the unknowns of getting a job.

I had 58 days of terminal leave before I had no income, I made the best use of it. I built a resume and applied for any job with relevant skills I had acquired in the Navy. Applying for jobs is a full time job!

I was a nuclear power plant operator, mechanic, and logistics specialist. I thought “there is no way I won’t make $90k starting when I get out”. By the end of that year I had submitted over 400 applications (this is no exageration).

I found a job at the shipyard on the 11th hour from a buddy-reference. It paid $60k per year, was sedentary, poor benefits, and had no windows, or internet access. In my opinion the definition of hell. If I’m being completely honest, I was trying to avoid accepting that job at all cost but no one would hire me.

I applied for jobs the whole time I worked there because I was unchallenged, bored, and depressed. I kind of gave up hope that I would get out of working a job I hated.

My wife sensed my frustration and suggested her making more money than me as a solution. We moved to Alaska so I could be a stay at home dad. We made it happen somehow and I loved it! Everything was great but I needed something I was missing… Something to keep me busy. Maybe I’m a workaholic?

My crossroad and why I’m considering a bootcamp course

Up to that point, I had been building sites from templates and builders in WordPress for a few years for friends, family, and personal projects like a movie review site (no longer have it). I built some Microsoft Access databases and felt pretty computer savvy. Everything I knew I taught myself from Youtube videos, help docs, and breaking stuff.

After a year of being a stay at home dad, I found a friend who got ripped of for $2000 and got a themeforest.com theme template with no content or anything useful (retail price on these is like $60 tops). She was like “Hey, you can make websites right?”. I jumped on the opportunity, made my first $1,500.00. I took that money and bought logos from 99designs.com then started shopping hosting platforms to host my sites. I didn’t find a host that I really liked so I set out to just make my own.

For two years, I built a “hosting” platform and “developed” websites. The whole time I felt like a hack because I didn’t understand anything about what was going on behind the user interface although I knew how to problem solve just about anything with WordPress. I made some really good friends and joined some facebook groups to level myself up but I never really felt like my Pokémon would “evolve” much more, if you catch my drift.

Why you are probably here

You are probably here, reading all this because like me, you’d like to learn a deeper understanding about coding in different languages. I have been contemplating putting more time into learning different coding languages but have so far only accomplished a few spotty online courses through sololearn.com or codecademy.com or purchased a few books.

In 2018, I closed up my web “developing” company in general to focus on a more stable income that didn’t keep me up at 3am and stressed 100% of the time. Due to a complete stroke of luck I got the most amazing job doing customer support for a web hosting company that I could do from home.

I have a solid base level of understanding of Javascript, HTML5, and CSS but everyday I’m surrounded by developers with far deeper skillsets than myself. I remembered that a handful of the people hired for the same job as me actually had no background with WordPress like myself and were hired directly out of coding bootcamps in Omaha.

I asked our slack channel for developer questions:

“What are your thoughts on coding bootcamps? Any success stories? I’m highly considering doing one”.

I don’t make viral posts that often so when they happen and spark a lot of conversation I feel like I’m on to something.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. Some of the people whom I look up to and sought out for answers to questions I’m completely stumped on actually went this specific route. Here is what they had to say:

Most Helpful Comments (Heavily Edited):

Depending on where you’re at with code, you could do online courses for a fraction of the price. Treehouse is one example. [A few others that were thrown out I mentioned above.]
You normally get decent suggestions from the mentors at https://exercism.io/ too.

Cody

There are a decent number of us here on the dev team that went through Omaha Code School.  I can think of six of us right off the top of my head.

That said, I’ve been pretty proactive in keeping up with grads from not only OCS but also from other code schools around here as well as a couple online ones through a meetup I can here in town.

I believe that the success you will find post coding bootcamp is almost directly tied to how serious you are about completing and getting the most out of every topic they will touch on. If you haven’t heard of it, there is a wonderful github repo that links to a whole boatload of CS classes that are offered free online:
https://github.com/ossu/computer-science

Andrew

A buddy of mine went to a 3 month code school in Chicago and was hired at a snazzy startup as a junior dev within a month of graduating. He had a lot of gaps in his knowledge with regards to working in an office environment (he was coming from a different industry,) so there was still a learning curve for him to get ramped up. But overall it was a great “turbo boost” to his career change

Tyler

I concur with Andrew; I’m high on coding boot camps, personally, but you definitely get what you give.

Josh

I 100% concur with what Andrew said way up top — you get what you give. But also … not all bootcamps are created equal. If you are getting real serious about one or two, track down grads from that program and make sure your expectations match up with what they actually came away with. It may be more than you need (and cost more) or it may not be enough.

Jen

So this is my response to a buddy of mine that had the following question:
“Do you know anything about [insert bootcamp school here]? My SO is (confidentially) considering a career change and is interested in their 9-month, full time UX design program.
As an example, do you think a company like Flywheel would respect that kind of program? Would they hire someone coming out of it
(heavily edited)
My reply: “I think reputable courses like that are very desirable to a company and at Flywheel we would highly respect that.
With that said, as we know, a name behind education isn’t everything. The benefits that really come out of it is the people and network you will be connected with. Also, to more traditional companies a course will show dedication but may not be enough for their “college degree + x years”. 
I go both ways on classes and boot camps that have become popular in the last few years. It’s definitely a great crash course and may make one fall more in love or fall out of love with the topic… for a hefty chunk of change. Some people need a nice little dip in the deep end but for me I have met those that forewent that route and we’re just as successful with piecing online sources together.  Yes, going adhoc online doesn’t have a name to reference and for those that can’t discipline themselves can take longer or drop interest but the tangibles that you can produce can speak volumes. The last decade has proven that many backgrounds can shine and one not more than another, specially in this scrappy day in age.”

T-rave

I would like to add that if you’re someone with serious willpower and motivation but not a whole lot of conventional hours the online courses are very helpful. You do have to be disciplined but I’ve witnessed people self propel themselves through a career change to a software developer with only online courses and a little bit of mentorship.

Courtney

With feedback like this I feel that taking a course I found in my local area (Charlotte) would be a great investment into my education, insulate me for the future, and open new doors.

I quickly reached out to UNCC about their coding bootcamp to get more details. This is what they sent me (click here for link). I was pretty impressed with their program. I am going to consider this further but between their program overview and the positive comments about the subject I was easily able to talk to my wife about it and get her blessing. I hope this article will serve similar purposes for you.

Final thoughts

I am convinced that coding bootcamps open new opportunities that only having a certificate would open. This is a highly competitive field and I feel that one of the main factors that prevented me from gaining employment at something I felt fulfilling was due to a lack of certification or degree. Experience is great but in today’s job market, employers prefer proof.

After being stuck in a dead end job, I never wanted to be in a situation like that again.

There are a couple routes I guess you could take specifically free or fairly inexpensive (online courses, books, and communities) and either one could be massively helpful for opening new doors if applying properly.

My intention is to learn as much as possible in different coding disciplines and build it into this blog, create a portfolio through projects I’ve created and build personal value that no two-page resume could ever capture.

If you cannot afford a bootcamp, I hope to be an excellent resource for you and your future of learning a deeper skillset and possibly open doors with you. Please, if you decide to create a portfolio site and would like a second set of eyes, shoot me an email! I’m more than happy to give you some constructive feedback!

See my followup with UNCC: Why I won’t be signing up for coding bootcamp with UNCC:

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Drew Karriker

Drew Karriker

My name is Drew Karriker, and I am really passionate about helping others, learning, and computers.

I created this site as a place to post projects and share things I have learned.

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