by Joanna Gaudyn
Is a Coding Bootcamp something for you?
Coding bootcamps’ popularity is growing. It sounds like a perfect idea to fast-forward your career. But is it really something for you?
Just a couple of years back it was perfectly normal to choose a degree and then build a career in that same field until you retired. Competencies lived separately: the IT people did the coding, the business people focused on the entrepreneurial aspects, and the accountants ran the books.
But somewhere along the way things started to change. Technical literacy became a necessity in many roles and fields of the global market. Think hospitality (AirBnb), transportation (Uber), publishing (Amazon). All these companies are increasingly dependent on software and their online services. Enrolling into a coding bootcamp might sound like a great idea to get equipped with these precious tech skills.
But let’s make one thing clear: bootcamps are not for everyone. If somebody tells you otherwise they probably don’t know a lot about bootcamps or are only focused on getting your money.
For me, doing Le Wagon was one of the best and most absolutely life-changing experiences I’ve had so far. The vast majority of the students I met there left more than satisfied. But I have also seen people regretting doing their bootcamp or not being as successful as they imagined — both back then when I was a student and afterwards when I taught myself. A lot of these cases resulted from a wrong attitude or unrealistic expectations and could have been easily avoided.
So before you quit your job or ask your parents for a loan, here’s a set of questions you should consider.
Do you like to code?
This one is important, even if the bootcamp you are considering accepts complete beginners. You haven’t written a single line of code in your life? Take an online course on Codecademy, Coursera or freeCodeCamp. They all have great resources for beginners and are completely free. If you get too stuck you can use their forums to ask for help. But try not to use those forums too often: being stuck and trying to figure the problem out yourself is a part of the process.
You finished your first course and still think it’s fun? That’s a great place to start.
Do you want to learn fast? And if so, can you learn fast?
If you’re considering taking a bootcamp, the answer to the first question is probably ‘yes’. But what about the second one? Be honest with yourself: think of your school years, weeks preceding exams at the university or that time when your colleague got sick and you needed to step in for them at work, even though you didn’t fully know the specifics of the job.
Your background doesn’t matter. I have degrees in journalism, book design and literary criticism — and currently work as a developer and a coding tutor. It’s the mindset that matters. The rate of change in the industry means that as a developer you can never stop learning (or you will fall far behind very quickly). So ask yourself if learning is something you actually enjoy — not for the next couple of months of the bootcamp, but for the rest of your career.
How do you handle stress?
Even if you enjoy coding and don’t mind the learning element, a bootcamp might be stressful. You are faced with huge workloads and run a slightly insane schedule: at Le Wagon it’s around 10 hours a day, 5 times a week, for 9 weeks. No holidays, no long weekends.
It is tiring. Exhausting actually. And weariness couples really well with stress. Sooner or later you will probably end up questioning whether spending your hard earned savings on this was a good idea and if your brain can even process this amount of material in such a short time frame.
If you don’t handle stressful situations well or cannot learn under pressure, think twice before enrolling into a bootcamp.
Do you find it easy to stay motivated?
The truth is that programming is fundamentally hard and learning it can involve a large dose of failure, frustration and self-doubt. The key is to keep on trying, so you’ll need 100% commitment. If you get easily discouraged or frustrated quickly, it might not be something you’d enjoy.
Remember that your learning path does not end on the last day of the bootcamp — on the contrary: this is where it really starts. You’ll need lots of perseverance and patience, especially when the bootcamp is over and you don’t have a mentor easily accessible. Staying motivated is the only way to push through the moments when things get complicated and take time to solve.
How do you handle working with others?
If you still believe in the stereotype of a developer being that unhygienic weirdo, working from their parents’ basement — just scratch it. Although I’m sure you can still find a couple of those, the times have changed. Only the most brilliant few will get away without social skills. But the reality is that nowadays employers put a huge emphasis on soft skills when hiring new members of their tech teams.
You need to be able to communicate — both with your teammates and clients, listen and collaborate. And you’ll most likely be faced with similar challenges during the bootcamp. Starting from programming in pairs, and ending with your final project — you won’t get away from teamwork.
What is your goal?
The fact that you don’t want to code to make a living doesn’t mean that a coding bootcamp isn’t something for you. In fact, a lot of alumni decide to follow more entrepreneurial paths — become a tester, product manager or a growth hacker. Depending on your previous experience, some of these alternatives might actually be more accessible right after a bootcamp.
However, if you would like to pursue the development route, it’s also within your reach. Be prepared to work hard, though, and set a realistic goal: it might take a couple of extra months to get where you want to be.
Can you afford it financially?
One important thing to remember is that things take time. In addition to the price of the bootcamp and some cash for accommodation and food during the course, you should account for at least a couple of months extra after you’re done. This way you’ll be able to keep on learning and focus on getting where you intend to be, rather than rushing into the first job available (which might not be in tech at all). Worst case scenario, you’ll have spare savings if you get your dream job right after the camp.
Can you afford it socially?
The social factor is something often overlooked. Putting your whole life on hold for a couple of months is certainly easier if you are single and have no kids. But it doesn’t mean that it is impossible otherwise — it just means more logistical hassle. But I know newlyweds, young moms and husbands of expecting wives who enrolled into a bootcamp and did great. Don’t fool yourself though: if you want to make the most out of it, the bootcamp needs to be your number one priority and focus in order to immerse.
Enrolling in a bootcamp is a big decision, so it’s important to really think it through and stay realistic — about your personal needs and abilities, logistics of such an undertaking, and your expectations and ambitions.
Even if you aren’t sure about some of the answers, keep in mind that it all comes down to the attitude — if you really want it, you can do it. All it takes is hard work and determination.
If you’d like to know more about what coding bootcamps are, you might have a look at this article.