After 6 months of the coding bootcamp journey, a cohort of 18 brilliant programmers has graduated on May 15th, 2021, and we all got one step closer to our goals. It was definitely not an easy road especially with the COVID-19 Pandemic forcing us to be in a virtual setting, but we all powered through! I wanted to take a moment to give a shoutout to my fellow cohort members and share what it was like to be a part of it for those who are debating whether to commit to a coding bootcamp or not.
I came from a restaurant management background and switched to the tech industry in 2018. For the past 3 years, I've been working at a Boston-based tech company named HubSpot. The company has been very supportive of my interest in front-end development, so I had the pleasure to take various front-end courses and training under their financial support. I really enjoyed front-end development and wanted to become a software engineer eventually. Coming from a non-tech background, I wasn't sure where to start though.
I heard about General Assembly's Software Engineering Immersive course from a colleague but wasn't quite sure if I wanted to commit to such a course that is time-consuming and expensive yet. I broke down my income to see if I could cover the cost but I barely could. I knew my wallet would be very slim for a while, So I did research on Lambda School, Hack Reactor, Flatiron School, and a local university's Bootcamp program to make a careful decision. I checked out each of their cost/financial options they had, and how the class structure looked like. After going through months of emails, calls, and Google searches, I decided to go with General Assembly.
- General Assembly
- Course Name
- Software Engineering Immersive
- November 17th, 2021 - May 15th, 2021 (6 months)
- Part-time, Virtual
- $14,950 USD
|5:30 PM - 9:45 PM||5:30 PM - 9:45 PM||5:30 PM - 7:30 PM||9:00 AM - 5:00 PM|
General Assembly had a fairly positive reputation and was the best for me because I have taken a couple of courses at that institution, so I was already satisfied with them. Most importantly, they offered a part-time class that fit my schedule and an alumni discount...!
Tuition was one of the most important factors for me when deciding whether to enroll in the program or not, and I bet it was for many of the Bootcamp grads/prospects. General Assembly's tuition was $14,950 which was kind of in the middle of the other bootcamp's price range. GA had a couple of financing options like loans and income share agreement to make it workout for the students. They offered a 15% alumni discount for me which brought down the cost by a significant amount (went from $14,950 to $12,707.50). And thankfully, my employer provided $5,000 of financial support to take this course, so I ultimately had to pay $7,707.50 out of my pocket.
I took this course while working full-time 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. On the days I had the class, I had to work out, cook, and eat from 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM, then I was off to class for about 4 hours. Thanks to the course being virtual and not in-person, it saved me tons of time. I initially thought about taking the in-person course at GA but COVID-19 forced everything to be virtual. I do not know how I would've done it if it was in-person, driving through the LA traffic every class.
I sacrificed my free time so I wouldn't lose much sleep. I missed out on Friendsgiving dinner this year which I was sad about. There were less golf time, video games, and Netflix. But it felt really good to be learning with organized time management and seeing my progress.
This is how my typical day-to-day looked like:
First of all, my cohort was pretty awesome. There were total 18 students who came from various backgrounds like music, media, aerospace, technical support, customer success, consulting, construction, fresh out of high school and etc. Some of the students had no prior coding experience, and some students had prior knowledge/experience that supplemented the course material. But we all had moments we struggled and triumphed. But we all powered through, it was fascinating to see everyone's growth through the journey.
The course covered Front-End, Full-Stack, and client/server-side frameworks. The course was taught via Zoom and GitHub, so we got very familiar with GitHub thanks to that. The course was structured like this:
- In-class exercise
- Lab work
- Career support/consulting (Every other Thursday)
The course work covered enough for you to learn the basics of each topic, but you really needed to put time outside of the class to get the best out of the class. I spent a lot of time after class to review, write codes from scratch to practice what I learned, and some of us even had peer-review sessions to help each other learn. Although the class was virtual, we had a lot of chances to get close to each other. There were two solo projects and two group projects, and the group projects really gave us chance to see each others' work styles and get close.
Also, the instructors were the best part of the course! There were two instructors and an assistant instructor teaching the course, and all of them were very patient. If there were students who were behind, they took time to set up breakout rooms and office hours to make sure that no one was left behind. I really appreciated their dedication and effort.
There was room for growth for this program though. The course was led using the GitHub repository that I believe the General Assembly HQ put together to align it with the industry standards. There were many moments that some of us felt that the repository was pretty outdated with documentation on the tech stacks we were learning. That definitely caused so much confusion figuring it out and debugging the version issues. Although it is understandable that it can't be perfect due to the tech stacks changing so much during a short period of time, we thought it would help the students focus more on comprehending the fundamentals of the material. I have sent this feedback to GA team, so hopefully this will be reflected in the future by making sure that the instructions are up to date more frequently.
I got lucky to get discounts and financial supports, but when I say this is a big financial and time commitment, I mean it. Some people would have to quit their job to be able to take this course and not having an income for 3 months/6 months would give you a lot of stress. So if you are considering enrolling in a coding bootcamp, really do some research on if you are able to financially support yourself, if you have time for it, and if this course would really be beneficial for you. There are many other ways to gain programming knowledge -- online classes and documentations to teach yourself how to code!
Coding bootcamp is not a golden ticket to a software engineering career. You really need to invest a lot of time and dedication to learn, never stop learning, work on projects, and prep for interviews/coding challenges to land a job. It all depends on the individual's dedication and capacity.
If you do not think you have what it takes to be a programmer, I want to tell you that many of us felt that way too. I had moments I doubted myself and wanted to cry. It was manageable but not easy working full-time and being enrolled in a coding bootcamp part-time for 6 months. I had many nights I was digging deeper into the course material, homework, projects, and extra stuff I was curious about which made me messed up my sleeping schedule pretty often. I actually lost a lot of hair, but no big deal -- I have Kirkland's Minoxidil by my side (hair growth treatment). My hair may or may not grow but one thing I was sure of: my technical knowledge will.
Thank you for taking time to read this article.
Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know if you have any questions!