Cover image for Translating Bootcamp to Real Dev Job

Translating Bootcamp to Real Dev Job

thecaitcode profile image Caitlyn Greffly ・4 min read

If you decide to go the coding bootcamp route, chances are you are going to have a few months of absolute madness. You are trying to change careers and pick up a mass of technical knowledge in a condensed amount of time. It's a lot.

As I was going through this process, I didn't really know if my life as a developer would look a lot like my life as a code school kid or not. As I transitioned into my first dev job, I encountered some surprises and realized I had had some misconceptions. Some things were the same, like getting stuck on a bug you never think you'll solve and then somehow figuring it out, but most of my day to day life is much different now.


Crazy Charlie from Always Sunny in front of the string board
Bootcamp: You get to start every project from scratch on a beautiful blank slate. You copy the up to date examples from the coursework and it looks great.

Real Dev Job: There are tens of thousands of lines of code already written by 200 different people over 8 years in 3 different frameworks. You try to use the existing code as an example to build your own code, but your PR gets sent back because that code was poorly written 3 years ago. Not only do you still have to learn to code, but you have to learn to do it better than the devs that came before you.

Volume of Code

It's some kind of elvish, I can't read it.
Bootcamp: You often write 200 lines of code in a day. You can get the wireframe for a new app up and running in 2 days.

Real Dev Job: Read 200 lines of code. Write one line of code. Research. Read 50 lines of code. Write one line of code. Break something. Delete one line of code. Google for an hour. Write five lines of code. Submit a PR but get suggestions for changes. Repeat the process.

Code Quality

Anchorman: 60% of the time it works every time.
Bootcamp: If you make it work, you're stoked. Often you won't have time (or energy) to refactor it, you'll have to move on to making the next thing work.

Real Dev Job: Of course you have to make it work. But then you also have to make it readable. Make it consistent with the current code. Make updates if the current code is old. Make sure you didn’t add any code that doesn’t actually do anything. Make sure your variables are named well. Make sure you don't override the parent CSS file. Make the changes your colleagues suggest. Make the changes your QA manager suggests. Don't forget to get UX approval!


Oprah saying you get a meeting you get a meeting everyone gets a meeting!
Bootcamp: Coding is 90% of what you do with your time.

Real Dev Job: There will be stand up. And design meetings. And team meetings. And company-wide meetings. And code review. And sprint planning. And sprint review. At many companies, you will find yourself adding value outside of the code that you write, which is awesome. Meetings can also be a great way to soak up the knowledge of your more experienced colleagues. But that also means that some days you won’t write a single line of code.


sloth crossing the road saying this might take a while
Bootcamp: You just learned React last week so this week you will write an entire React app in 2 days.

Real Dev Job: Because your time is not only made for writing code, but all the other things I've mentioned, the pace is a bit slower. This sprint you might only have one or two tickets to work on. They might be seemingly simple, like adding an error message for when a user tries to do something stupid. But when you're new, nothing is as easy and straight forward as it seems. Hopefully you are on a team that understands and supports that pace.


Parks and Rec woman saying money please
Bootcamp: Maybe you are a badass continuing to work while you put yourself through bootcamp, but if you're like me and thought that seemed impossible, you might have been feeling the financial strain. Buying an almond milk latte suddenly seems like a treat yoself moment for the elite.

Real Dev Job: cue Nsync song Just Got Paid You worked your buns off, and now you get to keep doing so BUT with a paycheck on the other side. Good for you! Go buy yourself an extravagant beverage. You earned it!

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thecaitcode profile

Caitlyn Greffly


From professional beer nerd to associate software engineer via bootcamp. (she/her)


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Couldn't find a better summary of my current state of mind. I started my first full-time Associate Software Developer position 2 days ago and it already feels like all the knowledge I had from self teaching and community college is useless (not really but I feel like I know nothing)


Haha I feel ya, but hopefully it wasn't totally useless!


How do you feel now? (9 months later?)


This is a brilliant article. Thank you so much for it! I often feel when coding my own projects that nothing I do will match the style and scale of a corporation. Even looking through public git repos I feel intimidated. It's nice to hear what it's actually like coding on a large project!


Thanks for sharing Caitlyn! This is helpful for getting insight into what it is like to be a software engineer. When you mentioned that nothing is straight forward & easy as it seems, what has worked for you in your current role as you have learned on the job?


Great article to help set expectations. A few other notes if I might....
-- Someone will be looking at your code at some point in the future. Assume whoever wrote that legacy code you're fixing/enhancing did the best they could with the tools/techniques available at that time. In bootcamp there is no time machine.
-- You'll have to run automated tests to prove your changes didn't break anything. In bootcamp there is no regression testing because there is no legacy code.
-- Sometimes you will spend more time writing automated tests than you do writing "real" code. In bootcamp there is rarely have enough time for comprehensive testing (let alone automated with CI/CD).


I've been in my job as a software developer for almost 2 years now and I STILL feel this way!


A fantastic post, so true! Thanks for sharing!


I got my first job as a graduate developer, I was totally unsupported had a breakdown unfortunately.