Bootcamps, Bootcamps, Bootcamps

Sweet baby Jesus, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a news story either praising or villifying coding bootcamps these days; The detractors say they cram too much information into a short period of time, gloss over or plain don’t cover CS fundamentals and give students unrealistic expectations of the job market, cranking out sub-par devs. On the other side are the bootcamps, rebutting that many cs grads can’t actually build a website or app despite knowing the runtime complexity of an insertion sort algorithm which they probably won’t use anyway.

With the closing of two prominent bootcamps, DevMtn and IronYard, the flood gates have opened and people are questioning whether this whole bootcamp thing has finally failed.

Like most things in life, and much to the chagrin of all your programmers out there who would like a definitive, black and white answer; both sides have some valid points…

Traditional CS education has some flaws: cost, time, practical application (in some cases) and the break neck pace at which web development moves. Can we really expect a four year uni to keep up with whatever JS paradigm/framework is in style and expected when their students approach the job market? In the other corner, we have the scrappy underdog, your local bootcamp, which doesn’t abide by any standard, both making it flexible and able to easily keep up with national and local trends but also worrisome in that there’s no freaking standards!!! Bootcamps vary wildly in some instances from program to program but have the ultimate goal of making job-ready developers who can crank out code but likely don’t have data structure and algo skills that CS grads have.

‘Well, my bootcamp taught x, y, z,’ you protest. Yeah, I get it, I’m making some generalizations but after working at two bootcamps and a community college, as well as speaking with grads from all sorts of bootcamps and colleges, I believe the largest difference between the two developers is that bootcamp Cindy can create a full stack app in React while she may need to lean on four year degree Lisa to create an algorithm for production that is efficient in terms of space time complexity or what’s going on ‘under the hood’ of the code they write. Conversely, Cindy may need some handholding on her CSS skills and front-end frameworks.

(Many) Bootcamps scoff at CS fundamentals (‘Scoff!’ they say) and seemingly trivial knowledge of binary search trees and sorting algos or superficially explore them. When are you gonna need to know that outside of an interview amirite??? While that is likely true for the majority (or at least a whole helluva lot of us), the underlying logic and deep understanding of these concepts is timeless; they won’t change when your current JS framework dies and gives rise to another cobbled mix of who knows what that arises from its ashes like a Frankenstein-ish Phoenix.

So, in the end, it’d be great if bootcamps/colleges/whoever could offer a combination of traditional, time-tested concepts like algorithms, exploring compilers and operating systems while still teaching all the cool shit that employers want you to know, but that’s not the case.

I feel whatever path you choose in your pursuit to be a coder/web-dev/engineer will lead to a lifetime of studying. I knew as much about data structures and algorithms as your cat knows about astrophysics… so I picked up a couple books, then some code challenges and then some more books, which I’m currently confused by as of now (seriously, what the fuck all you search algos…. get it together), but I really want to gain a better grasp on these CS fundamentals as I know they’ll make me a better problem solver.

So maybe the answer isn’t one or the other, but to supplement whatever you are ‘missing’ as you delve further into your career. So go out there and CSS some shit with your four degree self and you, bootcamper, learn how a fucking BST works… and then write a blog explaining that shit, cuz I’m still lost.

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