Before You Join A Coding BootCamp…

So you’ve decided you want to become a web developer eh? If frustrating yourself for hours on end with bug fixes, staying up late on pins and needles as another one of your deployments fails to build in production, keeping up with the breakneck pace of Javascript and constantly fighting off imposter syndrome sounds like your cup(s) of tea, then you’re in the right goddamned profession.

Still, after working in other, non-tech related fields, I will say that a career as a web developer is the most fulfilling and challenging career I could hope to have. So now you want to join the pack too. If you’re not looking to go back to school for 4 years, you’re likely debating which bootcamp you should join, combing over blogs like this to help you reach a decision. Well, I’m a bootcamp grad, turned full time developer who also works as an instructor for a local bootcamp on weekends, and here’s some things you may want to know before you take the plunge:

You Might Not Make It..

I’ve taught many classes and worked at two different bootcamps. The class you have in the beginning is not the class you will have in the end. People just stop showing up. It’s really a phenomenon I don’t understand, as you’re likely plopping down around 10k for the privilege of being bombarded with work for the next 3+ months. I think a lot of people either don’t fully understand how much work is involved to be a marketable web dev in a few months or they just plain don’t like it and see a bootcamp as a sort of cheat code to jump from their regular job to untold fortunes. The most successful students I’ve had weren’t always the most academically astute, but the ones who persevered and basically, just weren’t lazy.

Actually liking coding will help as well. This may seem like an obvious point, but if you don’t know whether you like code or not, a bootcamp is not the place to find out. Try codecademy, download a text-editor, write some code. Cool. Now imagine doing it eight hours a day… still sound cool? Great, you are on the right track.

Don’t JUST Learn What They Teach You

The best skill you can take from your bootcamp, besides the strong fundamentals you’ll gain, is the ability to learn things quickly. Look, your program can’t teach you anywhere near half of what you will be doing on the job. There just isn’t time and that isn’t plausible. Oh great, you know React, well we use Vue at Company Y, son. Oh, you learned some SQL pard’ner, well we’re all about Mongo here cowboy. (In this professional world, your boss is a big guy with a 5 gallon bucket hat). No matter where you end up, you WILL be learning new systems, code styles and probably digging into some legacy code that will be a lot less pretty than what you’re used to. Once you are armed with the fundamentals, take time outside of class to dig further into those fuzzy parts you’re not clear about, some new framework you’ve heard of and build things you aren’t required to. This will teach you, arguably, more than any class.

Just Being Good At Coding Won’t Get You Hired

Now this is a harsh truth: No one cares about your bootcamp certificate/degree. In fact, saying you went to a bootcamp may do you more harm than good. They’re new, they’re unregulated and maybe that employer hired one lame bootcamp grad that’s spoiled them on the rest. Fair? Maybe not. But hey, it is what it is. That being said, if you’re coming into your first web related job, your employer likely isn’t gonna be expecting a ton from you code-wise. They know you’re a n00b. So why hire you? Well, after sitting in on some interviews at my own job, and hearing others’ experience, don’t ever discount good old fashioned likability. People want to hire people that are like them, that can communicate and are fun to be around. Unfortunately, this can really hurt you if you happen to be a really bright, coding genius that is completely unlikable. Don’t skimp on polishing up your soft skills, learn how to interview well and think about how you come off. I can’t tell you how many super smart students have found themselves un-hireable because they don’t take time to craft better soft-skills.

Also, realize you might not be hired the week or the month you graduate. You will get slammed by rejection. You will think you’re not good enough. You’ll be tempted to retreat to more self-study to be ‘ready’. You will feel like a fraud. Keep going. Use LinkedIn to meet up with people for lunch. Go to meet ups. Take that first job, even if it’s not that great. The second job is so much easier to get than the first and the third will likely be easier than the second.

So with that being said, bootcamps aren’t the magic bullet to turn you from lazy bum to coding hero. They will you give the skills to possibly pay your bills, but you’re gonna have to meet them half-way. Keep that in mind and you’ll likely be a happy camper (I’m so sorry, there’s just no way I couldn’t do that, I hope you’ll understand).



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