3 things you might not know about joining a coding bootcamp

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If you have been reading my content for a while, then some of you may know that I teach for the popular online coding bootcamp Thinkful. Coding bootcamps are a relatively new (though not really if you think of technical trade schools) phenomenon and we owe them in part thanks to the advances in technology. Video communication for example make learning online multitudes faster than in the past where emails were the norm. And where once, computers were rather large devices with wires coming out from all directions that had to be attached to multiple ports of your home, you can now have a powerful computing device in the palm of your hand and in the comfort of your lap.

And affordable technology is rampant now in our society as well. Really we just finally hit that sweet spot in tech where we aren't tied to the old ways anymore. Some coding bootcamps, such as Bay Valley Tech, even offer free and low-cost coding programs for its students. So if you have been interested in joining an coding bootcamp, or just want a bit more insight on them, then read on and find out 3 things that you might not know about them and 1 bonus one at the end.

1. They aren't easier than college

Many people that want to get into coding professionally and do so through the bootcamp route assume that it is a simple and easy path to take. And that's mainly because of the shorter timelines involved. If something only takes 6 months, then undoubtedly it must be easier than the traditional 4-5 year college route. Not so. In fact, many times it is quite the opposite because you are condensing material down into smaller time frames.

Think of it like this. You only have 6 months to learn, many times, a full-stack programming environment and build several real-world applications to add to your name. Because you aren't just learning the syntax to a programming language most of the time. You are learning the entire technology behind it in order to turn you into a hireable candidate at the very end. Which involves software, hardware, programming concepts and career path and softskills training along the way. Mix in a little Computer Science along the way, and you are in for a full schedule pretty much.

Add this on top of the fact that most of the time you will be building real-world applications concurrently while you are learning and improving them along the way and you can start to see why coding bootcamps aren't the quick way into coding.

2. You really don't need a physical location

Sure, attending a giant campus with many buildings and chairs sounds cool (to some). At least it sounds like you'll be learning more. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals and professors everywhere. Most of these people you will never talk to and most of those chairs sit on. Because you'll be focused on your particular area of interest for those 4-5 years while in attendance. Which is where coding bootcamps differ, in that many forego the physical location in order to bring the costs down and to also open them up to more people from all walks of life and various parts of the world.

It's a weird thing to think about if you live an urban environment like Los Angeles and New York. But most people do not live in such places in which they have universities and colleges all within a quick freeway drive. Some people live in small towns and getting into that 1 college in the center isn't as simple as one would think. The overall costs are higher and many times, they need to apply out of state for a better chance, which makes it even more expensive as some out of state tuition's can be as much as double or even triple in-state tuition.

Most of today's coding bootcamps have classes in a virtual setting with other people from all other the world and similar interests. Online virtual instructors are answering questions and sharing their live coding skills. And you get to team up and pair program your way through various lessons, quizzes and drills, which is hugely beneficial, on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter who teaches you the material and where they are located. We are so used the idea that 1 person has to be standing in the front-center of a room while everyone shuts down and they spout things from memory that may or may not be accurate, it is difficult to tell at times, that we are afraid to look at alternative methods of learning. The only thing that matters is that you understand it in order to get you wherever it is that you want to get to in your career and in life.

3. There are many fewer distractions

Another reason why some find coding bootcamps more beneficial in the long term, is that they are levels of magnitude less distracting when it comes to the learning process than your typical university setting. Every resource is catered towards one thing and one thing only. Getting students to completion and employed with as high an accuracy rate as possible. This involves reading material, watching video material, live mentorship session and active online community work. Some even offer in-person meetups once or twice a month so that you can get to know other people doing exactly what you are doing.

There are no clubs to join or 2 month long breaks in between sessions, in which you forget 80% of what you just covered because you probably found it uninteresting anyway. You aren't running for class president or planning a week long trip to central america in between classes. You are working and you are learning, which at the end of the day is really the whole reason behind bootcamps. It is for those that aren't interested in the lifestyle process that comes with attending a formal college.

As someone with a degree in Computer Science who went the traditional college route, I can say that I did in fact spend a fair amount of time not working towards my own goals. There were social gatherings to attend, classes to skip and lunch to be had with club members. Not to mention the social elements that we rarely think about, but that take up energy, such as fashion, style and keeping up to date with the media. And in between, there were concepts being taught. Some of which I retained, and some which I did not. I can't say that I hated it however (though I wouldn't do it again). It's a different paradigm in learning. One that made sense for its time. A time of flip phones, printing directions on paper and hundreds of pounds of notes in binders to keep track of.

You can say that it really just is the sign of the times and that we should embrace these new non-formal methods of education and career advancement.

Bonus #4. Yes, you can get a job after!

This is probably the most popular question that I get from people, which is why I saved it for last. Can you get a job as a full-stack developer coming out of a coding bootcamp? And it's a great question, because a few years ago before the idea of bootcamps, or even the web really, the answer would have been no. And if you are going to invest a hefty sum of money into your education, then you want to ensure that you can get a decent return on investment at some point after.

The idea that you need a college degree in order to find employment as a programmer is still real, but it is quickly starting to recede and fade away as the job market grows exponentially and the talent tries to keep up.

There are many more companies these days that have gotten rid of such requirements however. Many companies that everyone is familiar with. Companies that have the resources to perform research on the quality of employees regardless of their educational status. And most agree, that you don't really need a college degree in order to be a functional employee. And again, that holds true for where we are today with technology.

Elon Musk for example, has stated many times that talent matters much more than a format degree. And Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList, offered three pieces of advice to those starting out:

  1. What to study and how to study it are more important than where to study it and for how long.

  2. The best teachers are on the internet. The best books are on the internet. The best peers are on the internet.

  3. The tools for learning are abundant. It's the desire to learn that's scarce.

I personally have seen many bootcamp graduates make it to the end of the course and receive offer letters from everything from startups to some of the biggest tech companies in the game. If you do the work and you bring the skills, there is no reason why the answer would be otherwise.

If you found this article helpful, leave it a thumbs up as it helps me to determine what to write about next. And if you have any questions about coding bootcamps in general, add them down below and I will be more than happy to answer them.

Happy Coding!

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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