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I Joined A Coding Bootcamp (And Here's Why)

jamiekaren profile image Jamie Ferrugiaro ・7 min read

That was it. Just a little click with my mouse, and there would be no turning back. I'd be committing $10,500 towards learning web development.

There's this little feeling in the middle of your chest that tightens in these sorts of moments. This feeling that lets your brain know hey, this is a big deal so you better be sure.

But I'm not sure, though.

I'm not sure if around 6 months from now I'll be using all the knowledge from this bootcamp to earn myself a junior developer job. I'm not sure that I'll be successful, or that the program won't be too much to handle while working full-time and volunteering part-time.

I'm not sure even if I get that job offer and leave my comfortable, stable position at a company I’ve been at for over 10 years, that I won’t live to regret it or miss the people and quiet routines there.

That it won't be one of the most frightening things I’ll ever do.

What am I sure of?

I'm sure that life isn't about guarantees. I'm sure that I don't have to be sure. I don't have to have all the answers to those questions in order for that leap into the unknown to be worth it.

These declarations don't stem from some Millennial daydream, either.

They stem from countless days of decision. A pile of endless pieces of paper and sticky notes containing lists of pros and cons. They are the results of a fruitless career that will lead nowhere, regardless of how good the company is or how comfortable I am there.

It is the years of my childhood spent in love with computers. It is that little girl who saw HTML in 1997 while in 8th grade for the first time and thought it was the neatest thing in the world. The one who got asked to be the teacher’s assistant that same year, and took her computer elective course over again instead of taking her first art class. (Being an artist since I was in 5th grade, that was a big choice.)

The girl who tried to take web design in high school, but ran into guidance counselors who thought a typing class was the same thing. Who eventually instead taught herself both HTML and CSS at 16, piecing together code (in what would probably look pretty ugly now) from memory, trial and error, and online how-to documents.

Somehow, that early seeded love for technology and computers fell through the cracks of society and adulthood and ended up lost along the way.

Until here I am now, finding it again, all these years later.


But A Bootcamp, huh?

There are three main paths to learning web development: self-learning, bootcamp, or college degree. But this post isn’t to give you all the resources out there for each. It’s to talk about my reasons for the one I chose.

In my opinion, the final decision on which path is personal. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are pros and cons to each of these education options.

Self-Learning

Self-learning is a very attractive path, isn’t it? It can be practically free, or at least extremely low-cost compared to either alternative. There’s a trade-off to that price tag, however.

Cons on self-learning:

  • No mentors or fellow students
  • No career councilors
  • Least officially recognized
  • Least amount of guidance
  • Requires extreme discipline and determination.

I’m not ashamed to say that self-learning wasn’t for me. There’s strength in knowing what you need and what you can do. I have learned many things on my own, but for this path I had no interest or desire to waste time being distracted or veering off the course. I want a steady, straight path ahead. As someone with ADD, this is even more important for me.

Computer Science Degree

My biggest question in this decision process was if it was difficult to get a job without a computer science degree.

Cons on a college degree:

  • At 35 years old, pursuing a full degree in Computer Science would mean years of education that would leave me much older in the job market when first applying for those junior positions.
  • Most expensive option
  • Longest process to get started in
  • May include work not relevant to the actual job position

I read over real job openings on LinkedIn, Monster, and many other job platforms. Although they were for a range of positions in the field and varied in programming languages, the biggest common denominator was ability. I realized there were many companies who value skill the most, regardless of a degree.

Those Hipster Coding Bootcamps

That leaves us with the last option. Pay $10,500 to go to a Bootcamp. I favored Rutger University Full Stack Dev program, but there are many options out there. For those who may not know, Rutgers is a University based in New Jersey, USA where I live.

Most of the developers I talked to who didn’t know much about these programs were astonished to hear the price. At first glance, it’s pretty expensive.

Most of the prices are around the same:

  • Flatiron (Part Time Online) Software Engineer - $14,000
  • General Assembly (Part Time Online) Software Engineer - $15,000
  • Rutger University (Part Time In-Person) Full Stack Flex Program - $10,500

What The Devs Have To Say

I talked to a small group of very helpful people willing to put up with answering days, if not weeks of my insane questions. I even have a friend currently pursuing a computer science degree after already being a developer for 5 years.

Cons on a coding bootamp:

  • Cover a lot of topics and programming languages briefly, but not truly in-depth compared to pursuing a degree.
  • Extremely fast-paced, so knowledge might not be absorbed as well as something learned in a longer time span.
  • Leaves many students with a false impression of being immediately hired after completion.

More than a few developers I talked to felt that bootcamps stretched the knowledge out too thin. They’d rather see someone very skilled in fewer languages, than only just getting started in many.

Another commonly expressed opinion was that these bootcamps left many students feeling they would be hired immediately (or guaranteed jobs) when in reality that didn’t happen.

What I Have To Say

I found the advice of all the devs I talked to extremely helpful, even if I did not decide against a bootcamp. The reason for that is simple. Hearing experienced voices about these programs enabled me to have an informed, educated decision.

Always Learn

Although I will be committing a lot of time and work to this bootcamp, it’s not the only and final source of education for web development I will take. I plan on incorporating free online resources as well as books, videos, podcasts, and many more.

You Get What You Give

I also do not expect to be handed a position upon graduating. Those cute little promises of “get a job within 6 months of graduating” are there to make potential students feel relieved, and I can understand that.

It’s a struggle to let go of so much money without any promises. I, too, was looking at the job placement reports that many of these companies offer about their students.

But I’m not going to give up if these too specific time frames don’t work out. I expect to continue to work very hard towards earning that first position, however long it takes.

Career Coaching

That being said, Rutger’s bootcamp (and others) provide valuable tools to help me as I continue learning. They provide a career coach, interview prep, career goal checklists, networking events, and so much more.

To me, these are the type of things that I could not learn as easily on my own. Knowing the skills for the job is important, of course, but it’s not the end-all to landing one.

Learning In Person

Some might gripe about having to go to a classroom for 3 hours, 3 days a week for months. I will be the first to admit that I have far less energy after working all day to go drive to a classroom and pay attention for long periods of time (or basically past 10 minutes).

However, learning in person is a much different dynamic. I will get to meet 26 other people, all reaching towards the same dream and goals as I am. I love meeting new people who have the same or similar passions as me. It’s why I joined Dev.to.

The idea of meeting some people in this field in person is just as exciting to me as having made this concrete commitment to pursuing this new career.

On This Piece of Paper Thing

Although not an official degree, I liked that I would earn a certification for this bootcamp. I also very much value the program is run in partnership with Rutgers. Rutgers is a well-known University throughout America, but it’s especially enticing since it’s even more known in the state I live.

Many people have been talking about this a lot lately. How expensive college is. How hard it is to get a job. I won’t get too into that discussion here. However, I believe bootcamps are the future of education. Maybe they aren’t perfect. Maybe there are some flaws and kinks that have yet to be smoothed out.

Yet bootcamps signal the dawning of a new generation of learners. We need other options besides just college that is different than the traditional system which hasn’t changed for decades. These education systems need to change as our society grows and evolves.


In the end, no one is an expert immediately after learning from any educational platform. We become truly knowledgeable from real-world experience. Whatever path of learning we first take, it all leads us to that next course. This was just the right first step for me.

What happens after the bootcamp?

Maybe nothing happens.

Maybe everything.

Click.

Posted on by:

jamiekaren profile

Jamie Ferrugiaro

@jamiekaren

Rutger's Full Stack Bootcamp grad, currently searching for her first junior dev position. I also have a love of adventure, marketing, and art. Profile art by the talented Zoey Masters.

Discussion

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I appreciate you going into all three of the options! Currently I'm a self-learner, but I'm struggling to keep motivation to keep learning/determine what to learn and work on while working 40+ hours a week and trying to fit in time for me, my SO, etc. It sounds like you have a lot of time commitments, too. Has the bootcamp helped you restructure your priorities for your day and help you stay motivated to learn?

I'm also terrified about leaving my cushy job! It would be so much easier to have a guarantee of a job or something working out at the end of the initial learning phase.

 

I am currently enrolled in Lambda School (lambdaschool.com). It is an online program (with full-time and part-time options) similar to other bootcamps with a few key differences:

  • No tuition is paid upfront.
  • You only pay them WHEN you get a job (making 50k or more) as a SOFTWARE DEVELOPER.
  • They also teach computer science fundamentals with much greater depth than traditional college courses.
  • They have extensive career counseling and hiring partners. (Since their financial success is directly tied to your financial success.)

Check them out.

 

Oh, thank you so much! I'm actually already enrolled to Rutgers, however. No turning back now. Also, I'm fortunate enough to be able to already pay for Rutgers fully with 0% interest--and Lambda School is still a loan. I've actually looked into them too. They seem good!

Hey Jamie,

I posted that message for Rachel since she mentioned being concerned about job guarantees.

Historically Rutgers' CS department has a good reputation so I'm glad to hear they have a bootcamp program (I'm originally from NJ).

Good luck with your journey. As someone who is currently in a bootcamp I can honestly say it will be one of the best investments you've made for yourself.

A few tips that will help you:

  • Ask for help as much as you need to. If you're stuck on a problem more than 20 minutes ask for help. (Trust me this works)

  • Take regular breaks (Pomodoro Technique) is effective

  • Get good sleep

  • Please do NOT be hard on yourself. Programming is hard and everyone makes mistakes, you could be stuck on something for a long time and it was due to a typo. So allow yourself to make mistakes.

Best of luck on your new journey.

Awe thanks so much!! These tips are great.

 

I've looked into them before, but haven't made the move to apply beyond their Summer Hackers Program. How are you liking the program? Have you tried learning other ways?

Hey Rachel,

Prior to joining Lambda this past November, I was teaching myself to code for the past year. I took Udemy classes and completed all the certifications for freeCodeCamp. I was able to learn Python and JavaScript but the problem was that I was still not "job-ready".

So I decided to enroll in Lambda to refine my skills and get myself job ready. The biggest reason I choose Lambda is because of their deferred tuition job guarantee plan. I pay no money upfront and I only begin paying them back after I get a job as a software developer. If I don't get a job or I decide to work as a shoe salesman instead, then I don't pay them a dime. So the only thing I risk is my time.

It has exceeded my wildest expectations. Not only am I getting excellent instruction with tons of support from a variety of teaching assistants and students but I also have a dedicated career counselor at my disposal to help craft a resume, LinkedIn profile, etc.

But that's not the best part...the best part are these projects we work on that simulate a professional software development working environment which will count as real-world experience with many tech companies.

We have a very diverse student population many of whom have no prior coding experience and yet the people who graduate are more skilled than 80% of CS graduates. And they are getting hired at top tech companies making good salaries.

The caveat to this program is that it requires a time commitment and it's definitely hard-work but the instructors and staff are sooo supportive and they'll never give up on you as long as you don't give up on yourself.

Anyone who completes this program is hands down a bona fide software developer and can work anywhere.

Hope this helps. Best of luck in your endeavors.

That's great to hear! Thanks, Wilfred, for breaking it down further for me! 😊 It definitely gives me more to think about in terms of learning and what would be the best path for me.

Best of luck to you also!

 

Hey Rachel! I actually haven't started yet. I officially start May 14!! We have been given this nice list of Modules to work on before class for now, and I'm also doing my best to learn some JavaScript and catch up on HTML/CSS using FreeCodeCamp (and the book Eloquent JavaScipt).

I do believe it will help structure my priorities. As someone with ADD, through the years I've really had to work hard to learn time management and project management. Because I've made this commitment, it's going to come first (at least until the program is over).

However, of course spending time with family/friends is important! I also volunteer doing digital marketing at Amman Imman. Until now, I have tried to commit 4 hrs per week at least. But I may have to scale that down, if it becomes to much.

At least with the bootcamp, I'll have a clear list of what I'll need to learn per week which will help me organize everything else around that.:)

I also use a paper planner, Passion Planner to help me keep track of everything. (I know, not a digital platform, shocking!).

It would be easier! I could have also went to get my CPA, decided to do a path that is more aligned with what I currently do in Accounts Receivable. Sometimes, though, we have to figure out what is worth it. The one benefit to having a job that is stable already is you don't have the pressure of needing income immediately. Of course, I'd like to find a new one as soon as I can after I complete the bootcamp, but it's not essential for me to do so which is nice!

 

Good luck with the start of your bootcamp, Jamie! It's coming up QUICK! FreeCodeCamp is the only free learning site that I've followed all the way through on JS, and definitely recommend that site for JS, HTML, and CSS. 😊

I've been debating about using a passion planner (honestly, I love colors and stickers and those are both in them typically!), and maybe that's one way to help me prioritize what I need to do daily. (And get me to code more often!)

That is super nice that you don't need a job right away. I think that's why I'm terrified of making the leap, since student loans follow me everywhere... It sounds like coding is more of your passion, and that's great that you are able to continue to learn!

I definitely recommend Passion Planner. If nothing else, I'm a fan of trying things to see if they work for you. Worse case it doesn't, and you try something else! I will warn you. It's easy to spend too much time on planners, thou, haha.

Fair point! I just finished ordering one with a set of stickers, of course! :) We'll see how it goes.

 

Great post. I took the self-learning route and sometimes wonder how a boot camp could have affected my career. Good luck and make sure to reach out to various developer communities. I have found that most developers are very willing to share knowledge and point you in the right direction.

 

Thank you! Yes, so far I have met a few really nice people who have been willing to share advice or even teach me a thing or two! It's pretty great. I'm trying to join some Meetup groups in my area as well. I really love seeing how open people are.

 

Feel free to reach out anytime! I'm currently focused on react and react native but have a lot of backend php and nodejs experience.

Thanks! I added you on Github. :)

 

Thank you for being so open and introspective. This was a pleasure to read. I wish you all the luck in the world, although from the looks of it, you won't need luck.

One thing that you put in the cons which I find to be a pro in these short programs: they're intense and fast paced.

I have always struggled and lost attention in regular classes (maybe because of undiagnosed ADD). If it's short and intensive? I'm on point.
It leaves a lot of time to actually build all kinds of nifty stuff as your mind clicks the pieces in place after the classes.

 

Thank you! Oh, yes absolutely. It's hard for me to last for long classes. However, these don't necessarily fix that. The class is still 3 hours long, which is a nice chunk of time to have to sit through. It's just as bad as college, really. I think this will be a little different since you're more actively involved in doing something versus just listening, however.

I guess that feature really is split for me. Because of the fast pace, you have to learn faster which is harder (generally). For example, I experienced this when I took a 4 week class in college on Intro to Marketing. That was insane. It sounds great because hey I'm done in 4 weeks. But it leaves no time for confusion or catching up. Luckily, I had a lot of real life experience already to make it possible to do well, but if I had no prior knowledge, it would have been hard.

But I actually very much agree. The fast speed of the program is a large part of what convinced me as well. If it was lengthy, it wouldn't be as attractive.

One of the tricks for ADD I learned at a much older age is to record every class or meeting that is long or I know I need notes on. This way I don't have to stress myself out if I'm not capable of retaining everything. It works very well for me. It might not work as well in this case, but I'm going to try it out.

 

Good for you for making the step! Don't worry about the age thing because the dev world ranges in ages. No matter what school you go to, as long as you surround yourself with devs in the world, they'll help you with all the other stuff boot camps don't teach. You have a passion so I know you'll succeed 😊

 

Your post reminded me of this:

Han

Been there, struggled and probably thought whether I made the right decision at least 1000 times. I am, where I am, 0 regrets, and to be honest if I think now, If I would get a change to go back in time and do things different, I would, but then again, without trying I wouldn't never have realised which decision that I made was right and which was wrong.

However, the fact that you chose this path, at least for me, seems like a very good and wise decision, most people here find what they love and are passionate about, and quite often make then feel like they are never working, because they just enjoy what they do. Hopefully you will be one of those. Good Luck to you, stay strong.

 

Thank you for the encouragement Andrej! I absolutely agree. Whatever happens, we can't change decisions. We can only learn from them. It was hard to make this decision but I believe it is was the right one.

 

Awesome round up!

I took the bootcamp path for many of the same reasons you did and have had many conversations with people trying to figure out if a bootcamp is right for them discussing many of your points.

Bookmarking this post so I could share in the future.