Confessions of a Coding Bootcamp Instructor

After a busy week of fathering my three badass kids and creating and squishing bugs as a software dude at a startup, I take the weekends to recharge… (chuckles) it was hard even typing that. No silly, relaxing weekends are for guys without three kids. On my weekends, well for at least one day out of them, I work as a mentor at a coding bootcamp. You’ve no doubt heard about the proliferation of these quasi-vocational schools which claim to crank out software devs at a dizzying pace. I’m not here to argue whether they’re good, bad or in between. I went to one and coupled with intense studying, I landed a job and wished I had entered the field much sooner.

During my regular week of software devloper-ing around and usually feeling like the dumbest guy in the room, it’s kinda satisfying to walk into a class of complete noobs and getting to feel how I imagine our senior dev does everyday. I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now and here’s what I’ve learned:

I Don’t Know That Much More Than You

Sure, I’ve been getting paid to write code for a couple years, but in the big scheme of things, I’m just a noob too. Students still look a little bewildered when I have to conference with Google to find out why their div isn’t floating near their other div or exactly what is `this` in JavaScript. `Don’t you know this?` they say with their beady, judging eyes. Well, sometimes no. Other times I just don’t know how to explain that shit to you in a way that makes sense.

I Know Who Will Make It

Usually, after week 3, I can tell who will make it and who won’t. I’m very rarely surprised by the girl who gets hired after the course ends or the guy who drops out around week 10. I ask a question at the beginning of the program, `Why do you want to learn to code?` If you said `Money` then I hate to tell you, but according to my observations, you are likely not gonna make it bub. I mean, hey who doesn’t like money, but if you got into this game just for the dough, you’re probably not going as far as the person who is intrinsically motivated(read: actually interested in coding).

I Will Only Teach You About 10% of What You Need

Does that sound bad? Well, hate to break it to you, but it’s probably less than that. Web development covers a large territory. A comp sci degree is four years long, and many of those students come out less prepared to work in software than a bootcamp grad. The field changes fast and every team has their own process, code style, culture, etc. I’m here to teach you the basics, and besides coding, teach you how to think through problems and learn on your own. Guess what you’ll be doing when your team decides to use a framework noone has heard of because the senior dev used it in a hackathon? That’s right, you’ll be learning that shit on your own… and getting paid to do it.

I Get A Lot Out of Teaching You

When you think of software developer, you’re probably not picturing some guy in a power suit, leading a meeting. No, it’s probably a burrito eating, nebbish type who has trouble talking to women. Well, fuck you, first off. Secondly, yeah, it’s true: a lot of devs have trouble when it comes to communicating or speaking in groups. In fact, forget devs, that’s like, everybody. Speaking to a class of people for three hours (twice a day) about technical things has made me more comfortable speaking in public, though I do feel bad for those first few classes who had to sit through my sweat-filled bumbling. Thanks y’all!

So while you’re enjoying some local sports on Sunday, kicking back with a cold, moderately priced domestic beverage, I’ll be grooming a class of soon to be kombucha-swigging, burrito-eating SF hipsters. Not all heroes wear capes.

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