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It’s August already, which means TechLadies Bootcamp #6 applications are open for just two more weeks! We know a bootcamp can be a big commitment – it’s important to consider the benefits and risks before applying. To help you make an informed decision, we decided to invite a panel of experts and have an honest chat about upsides and downsides of coding bootcamps.
Coding bootcamps – why the hype?
First coding bootcamps – accelerated education programs that aim to turn newbies into professional developers – started popping up around 2011 in the USA. The concept took the world by storm – everyone from fresh graduates and mid-career switchers to aspiring techpreneurs and stay-at-home moms wanted to become a coder. The prospect was definitely tempting: a new career in tech is within your reach once you’ve completed an intense (but short) instructor-led program.
Education providers and tech schools quickly met the demand, opening a number of programs, which covered everything from front-end development to data science. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in VC funding were invested into those companies and the press predicted they would be instrumental in battling the growing tech talent shortage.
However, bootcamps soon started attracting criticism. Some schools came under fire for unclear reporting on graduate employment rates, others were accused of running low-quality programs and taking advantage of hopeful students. Bootcamp-trained junior devs started flooding the market, which made it difficult for new cohorts to stand out and find employment. Some even started to fear “the bootcamp stigma” – being perceived as a sloppy developer with poor knowledge of the fundamentals.
What is the truth about coding bootcamps then? Are they worth the investment? Will they help you land your first job in technology? Giselle from TechLadies Events team asked a panel of experts: Melanie Wu, Instructor Mananager at General Assembly, Royston Seah, Talent Acquisition Lead at Accenture, and Hui Min Toh, developer at Cognizant and TechLadies Bootcamp #3 graduate.
Is a bootcamp the right choice for me?
There certainly is no right answer to this question – it all depends on what your goals are. However, for some people, a coding bootcamp might be the push they need to pursue tech as a career full time. “Coding had always been a side thing for me,” says Min. “TechLadies bootcamp was a good testing ground, it allowed me to understand if this is something I really want to commit to. By the end of the program, I knew I liked it enough to pursue it further. About a year later I quit my job and signed up for another course to become a professional developer.”
Our panelists agree that bootcamp grads are as likely to land job in tech as traditional diploma holders – as long as they have the skills the employer is looking for. “The mindset of employers is changing, a diploma is not necessary anymore,” says Royston. “Recruiters will evaluate a candidate based on their skillset and their real-life experience.” And that is where bootcamp graduates can shine – immersive programs are usually tailored for the current needs of the market and reflect the latest trends. “We make sure our curriculum, standards, and benchmarks are established in collaboration with largest employers and leading industry experts,” says Melanie. As a result, bootcamp grads may have more relevant skills and fresh knowledge than someone who graduated with a degree but stopped following current trends.
That being said, you should not expect the bootcamp to equip you with all the knowledge you need to land a career in tech. “Treat the bootcamp as a stepping stone,” says Min. “It will give you the tools you need to develop your skills further, it will help you learn how to break complex problems down and translate them into code, but there are many more things you will have to learn on your own.”
Where to start?
First of all, starting a bootcamp with realistic expectations is crucial. “An intensive 9-to-5 course will help you pick up the foundations, but things are going to happen really fast – you need to be ready for that and hit the ground running,” warns Melanie. “Take your time to do your research, find out what you want to learn and whether the modality of the bootcamp appeals to you. This will help you avoid disappointment.”
Secondly, when assessing bootcamp organisers, always check if they offer short pre-bootcamp classes or consultations, and whether the courses have any prerequisites for the candidates. “Free intro sessions give candidates a good taste of what the curriculum will look like. Pre-admission meetings and additional tasks for candidates help establish a baseline for all attendees,” shares Melanie.
Finally, make the most of your experience. Once you’ve been accepted into a bootcamp program, apply yourself. Asking questions, connecting with instructors, classmates, and communities, as well as completing a project for your portfolio will all help you get as much value from the program as you possibly can.
TechLadies’ Top Bootcamp Tips
1. Do your research. Don’t sign up for a program without doing your research first. Read up on current trends, market needs, graduates’ experiences, and reviews.
2. Set goals for yourself. Do you want to master a specific skill or get a good hang of the fundamentals? Do you want to land an internship or a junior dev job? What can you realistically achieve within the next 3 months?
3. Ask questions. Bootcamps are a safe space that encourage learning – there are no stupid questions. Ask, connect with others, seek help whenever you have trouble understanding a concept.
4. Adjust your mindset. Don’t expect the bootcamp to be the magic bullet – at best, it will be the beginning of your journey.
5. Build a portfolio. A bootcamp can be a great opportunity to add a new project to your portfolio and benchmark your work against industry standards.
6. Join a community. Nothing motivates more than joining a group of like-minded people. They will help you keep going when the going gets tough.
7. Connect the dots. Recruiters will look at the sum of your skills and experiences. Make sure you can show the full value of what you bring to the table. Polish your resume, LinkedIn, GitHub profile, website, portfolio, etc. so that they all tell a consistent story.
8. Never stop learning. We can’t stress that enough! Technology keeps changing, so make the effort to stay relevant.
I graduated… and now what?
Graduating from a coding bootcamp is only the beginning of your journey. Don’t let that discourage you though. “Stay focused and specific. Read job descriptions and be aware of what the market wants,” suggests Royston. “Keep learning, through online courses, internships, projects – build your real-life experience. And nurture your passion for the industry.”
However, don’t neglect your soft skills either. “Communication skills are just as important, try to find that balance,” shares Royston. How? “Find groups and communities you can join, write articles, give talks,” lists Min. “Build your network of contacts, put yourself out there. Reach out to people who hold positions you aspire to have and ask them about the reality of their job. Identify the areas you still need to work on,” concludes Melanie.
To bootcamp or not to bootcamp?
While it’s difficult to say whether or not a bootcamp is the right choice for you, one thing is certain: learning a new skill is always a tough but rewarding process. Whatever method you choose, it is always worth the effort. The good news is that tech talent shortage is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future – and if you are an aspiring programmer, there are countless ways for you to up-skill, many of them outside of the traditional academic path.
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