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Booting Up: Why I Chose A Coding Bootcamp


My name is Shawn Huang Fernandes and I am an ex-power systems engineer who is trying to become a developer! I am currently taking Flatiron's Software Engineering Immersive program at the Seattle Campus.

So, Why The Blog?

This blog is to help give others an insight into what I did during my coding bootcamp to ensure that I got into the tech industry. Hopefully this might help someone else navigate the same water I did!

Quitting my job and becoming a student again was really scary, and one of the hardest questions I had to ask myself was:

How Do I Re-Invent Myself Into A Developer?

I had heard of three routes:

  • Teach yourself, be awesome, someone will hire you
  • Formal Education, get a degree, someone will hire you
  • Bootcamp, learn coding, someone will hire you

Route 1: Teach Yourself

At the time I was considering my career transition, it occurred to me that I could possibly study coding on my own time. This option was appealing as it required $0. However, it would mean I would need to:

  • Structure my own learning
  • Research what the industry was looking for on my own
  • Coordinate networking opportunities outside of my work hours
  • Possibly quit my job
  • Figure out a reasonable timeline for when I could start interviewing for jobs and try to land a job

Why I turned this option down:

As much as my ego wanted to make me believe I could learn to program, network, and figure out the industry on my own, I turned this option down because there were too many unknowns (and I had recently gotten married and purchased a home, so I wanted to take a smart risk).

Route 2: Formal Education

I had come from a 4 year institution, gotten an internship, and landed a career, so the fleeting thought of doing that all over again did cross my mind. Getting another degree would mean I would need to:

  • Possibly be out of industry for 4 years
  • Pay upwards of $40,000
  • Quit my job

Why I turned this option down:

The 4 year time commitment, along with the financial burden of a degree made me turn this option down. And from what I understood about the software engineering industry, relationships and skills are everything. Having an institutional degree would not be a guarantee of success in the software engineering realm.

Route 3:The Bootcamp Approach

Because I had dabbled in coding, I started getting notifications about coding bootcamps (what a coincidence). I had always assumed bootcamps were places that taught you how to code, and then let you loose on the world. On my way home on the bus I saw a sign for Flatiron and decided to do some further research by attending an orientation and surfing their website. What I learned was that going to Flatiron's bootcamp would mean I would need to:

  • Definitely quit my job (the program is 9-6 Monday through Friday)
  • Be responsible for my own networking (provided opportunities from Flatiron)
  • Be responsible for my own learning (provided a curriculum and coaches from Flatiron)
  • Pay $15,000 dollars
  • Commit myself for 15 weeks

Why I chose the bootcamp option

There's a couple reasons I chose to do a bootcamp over the alternatives, and they were all based on my situation:

  • I wanted to be software engineering ready within a couple months
  • I wanted a program that would keep pace with my learning speed (or slow down to accommodate me)
  • I needed guidance from professionals to position myself to get an awesome tech job (building an online presence like LinkedIn, portfolios, and blogs!)
  • I needed networking opportunities to make connections with startups and larger companies
  • I didn't want to be broke after attending the program

Preparing For The Bootcamp

I remember putting in my two weeks at my job, knowing that I didn't want to spend time sitting around; I wanted to start the bootcamp as soon as possible. Flatiron's earliest start date was two weeks away, and they had a platform full of coding labs and lessons that needed to be completed before you could schedule your technical interview. There were a lot of obstacles I had to overcome.

  • There were a LOT of pre-work assignments.
  • The coding language was in Ruby. A language I had never heard of.
  • I was still working for the next two weeks (right until my interview)

I had two options:

1) Push my start date out.
2) Buckle up and do the work.

I decided I would spend the next two weeks completely immersing myself in the material Flatiron provided and spending every waking hour either:

  • At Work
  • Cooking
  • Coding

Because I condensed a lot of the concepts of programming and web design into a two week period, the knowledge was fresh during my technical interview, and I passed!

If you are considering joining a bootcamp

1) Do your research. Will they help you find a job or will they teach you how to code?
2) How much time do you need to prepare? Pick a start date that fits your pace
3) Commit to Learning. Joining a bootcamp means making sacrifices, if you are not prepared to commit to learning you're throwing your money away!

Thanks For Reading! I'll be posting some more updates as I progress through the bootcamp!

Top comments (4)

mrrwmix profile image
Matthew Winemiller

What's it like being in a full time bootcamp? How's the pace? Can you and your cohort keep up?

I ask because I attended a part time bootcamp, but I committed myself to a strict schedule like what you're doing. Maybe a full time program would've been a better fit.

shawnhuangfernandes profile image
shawnhuangfernandes • Edited

Hey Matthew!

The pace is very quick. In my cohort we have few people coming in with programming experience (like a CS degree), and majority of people with no experience. I lie somewhere in the middle (because of my EE degree). Everyone is keeping pace, it's actually really inspiring

That being said, this specific program is split into 5 "mods". Mods are basically levels or "grades". You graduate from one mod to another by completing a code challenge and a project (that encapsulates the concepts you learned during the mod), and each mod is 3 weeks long.

I am currently in Mod 2. My experience in Mod 1 was like this:

  • I was bombarded with new concepts, and I benchmarked my own progress by completing coding labs
  • Every day during the 9-6pm session I worked with my cohort on discussions questions, pair-programming excercises as well as the labs. I took this time to get support from coaches, instructors, and my peers to fill the gaps in my knowledge so I maximize my time learning and not be stuck.
  • Because I am a slow learner, I spend my nights and weekends also working on labs (and creating cheat sheets or "brain dumps" to make sure I was ready to tackle the next week). I'll be writing a blog post on my strategy for "learning" coding concepts soon!

I am so glad I am full-time, because I feel like it's a good reflection of what working as a dev might be like:

  • It teaches you how to learn, and learn quickly
  • You have to learn to leverage the knowledge of other people (peers or otherwise)
  • You get out to industry quicker
  • Everyone in my cohort is extremely driven, so it's a great environment to work in

From what you're telling me, you would have been an awesome fit for a full time program. But the important thing is that you're through!

Thanks for asking!

mrrwmix profile image
Matthew Winemiller

That sounds like such a wonderful environment to learn coding in. Your dedication and preparation will take you far! I would suggest looking at problems on Hackerrank, Leetcode, and Code Wars to get better at whichever programming language you're learning, if you're not doing something similar already. A few classmates and I studied on those sites together weekly to prepare for interviews. That being said, however, I was only asked to reverse a string and query SQL tables in the interview I had for my current dev job.

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shawnhuangfernandes profile image

Thanks for encouragement! We do a daily algorithm but I didn't actually know all the different places these algorithms were pulled from. I'll be incorporating this into my weekend study sessions! Really appreciate your input Matthew!