There will be moments in your life that you decide to jump headfirst into deep waters and hope that you will make it back to the surface when it is all said and done. For me, one of those moments was deciding to switch careers from athletic training to software engineering. Soon thereafter I had another similar moment, deciding to invest in myself and attend Flatiron School’s online self-paced software engineering program.
Twenty-five months ago I decided to switch careers. Twenty-two months ago I made the decision to attend Flatiron. Ten months ago I graduated from Flatiron. Four months ago I accepted a position with Flatiron to help open up their new San Francisco campus as a software engineering coach. Three weeks ago tomorrow was my last day as a software engineering coach and the start of yet another chapter in my job searching quest.
Since graduating, I have been approached by quite a few people who are in that scary, yet exciting position that I was in not too long ago who ask how and why I chose to go to Flatiron over other bootcamps. With this blog post, I am going to share a few tips and things to consider that I personally found valuable when making the decision of which bootcamp to attend.
First and foremost, I think the first question that needs to be answered is whether or not you want to attend an online bootcamp or an in-person bootcamp. This is important as it will help you narrow down your search. As someone who went through an online program and then coached an immersive program, I’d love to give y’all a little bit of guidance for which option may be best for you.
There are a bunch of questions that I could ask in this section but I am choosing to limit myself to the 5 I think are the most important. Let's dive on in.
Are you currently living within a reasonable distance of bootcamp campuses? - If the answer is no, then maybe online would be a better option for you so that you can try to avoid relocation/commuting expenses.
Are you a single parent who needs flexibility in your schedule? Do you have a medical condition that limits your ability to get around? - If the answer is yes to either (or both) of those questions, I definitely think an online program would be beneficial for you.
Do you think you have the discipline and motivation to complete the work on your own? - Let’s get real here for a second. Attending and completing a coding bootcamp is not an easy fast track way to a great career. From time to time, things will get frustrating and you'll feel discouraged. You have to have the ability to keep yourself motivated. From what I have seen, in-person makes it easier to stay motivated because you physically have others grinding and struggling right alongside you. With that said, some online programs, like Flatiron, have a strong online community that emulates an in-person environment.
How much time do you have available to dedicate to this career switch? - One thing you'll learn while going through a program is that we all come from different walks of life. Some people may need to work while going through a program and others may have the means to only need to work part-time or not at all. From my experiences, if you feel that you need to work full-time, an online (self-paced or part-time) program would better suit you. Now, if you only need to work part-time, I’d say that you can go either way.
Are you ready to dedicate 40+ hours a week for 12 - 16 weeks (depending on the length of the bootcamp)? - If you don’t have any plans to travel, can quit your full-time job (or go on leave), are ready to grind, and want to finish the bootcamp and jump into your next career quickly, then an in-person program is right for you!
Hopefully, at this point, you are leaning more towards either an online or in-person program and you've narrowed down your search a bit. If you are still torn between the two and have questions, please feel free to reach out to me either in the discussion of this post or direct message me here or on Twitter.
If there is one thing that I want to emphasize the most in this post, it is that you need to research the bootcamps before handing them your hard-earned money. Please do not just randomly choose a bootcamp without doing your research. I would suggest spending at least an hour combing through reviews for each bootcamp you are considering.
When I was trying to make my decision, I did my due diligence and read a lot of reviews of multiple online bootcamps. I always made sure to sort them from worst to best so that I could get an idea of the ugly experiences. By doing this it helped me decide what I felt like I could deal with and what I couldn’t tolerate. If there was something that I needed to draw the line at, I’d search the reviews for similar stories. If they didn’t seem to be a reoccurring issue, then I’d regard the issue as an outlier.
Speaking of deciding what I could deal with and what I wouldn't tolerate...
Is the cost of the program important to you? What about the payment plan? Or scholarships? Is the length of the program important? Is it important that you can ask questions to instructors and coaches at any time? Do you want to pair program with other students? Do they offer a membership to a co-working space?
As an example, the most important factor for me when I was looking at bootcamps was the amount of support they said is provided to online students. After going to college for 5 years and obtaining 3 degrees (B.A., B.S., and M.S.), I learned something about myself: I need to be able to ask clarifying questions and have peers around me to help.
Once you have decided what is important to you make sure to…
Asking questions is really important. In order to get into a bootcamp you will go through a few rounds of interviews. At each of these interviews, you will have the ability to ask the interviewer questions about the things most important to you, so make sure you ask. You are about to spend a lot of time and money, you want to make sure that this bootcamp is the right place for you.
If you are contemplating an in-person program, the school more than likely does campus tours. Go to one! You’ll get the opportunity to see other cohorts working, meet instructors and coaches, as well as get a feel of the environment. If you’re lucky you may even get to ask a current student or instructor some of these important questions. Every single person experiences things differently, so don’t be afraid to keep asking the same questions.
My final tip for those of you trying to decide between multiple bootcamps is to work through the pre-work. Most pre-work courses are free. Some require that you’ve at least turned in an application, and others don’t have any restrictions at all.
My suggestion is to spend at least 2 - 3 hours working through each bootcamp’s pre-work. Why you may ask? Well, every person has a different learning style and bootcamps are no different. Not every bootcamp teaches the exact same way using the same educational principles. The learning platform that each program utilizes is different. I think the best way to figure out which one will work best with your learning style is to give each one a test drive.
This is something that I did and let me tell you, some of the learning platforms I came across completely clashed with my learning style. I quickly crossed a few off of my list this way. Flatiron’s platform was by far my favorite and this was one of the biggest contributing factors in my ultimate decision to attend their bootcamp.
I’m going to round out this article by saying that I am incredibly proud of you for making it this far. Not in the article, but in the decision to switch careers. I do hope that this article has helped you identify a few important things to consider when searching for the right bootcamp for you. Now, go on and jump confidently into that deep end.
Note: The cover photo for this blog post is brought to you from Boise, ID.