A few years ago, the first coding bootcamps emerged on the scene as a new way to pursue a career as a developer. But not long after, many coding bootcamps began changing the narrative.

“Become a developer in just 10 weeks and start making an $100k salary.”

“99% job placement rate.”

The fact is, the act of signing up for a coding bootcamp alone isn’t enough to land a job as a developer. Even if you sign up for a great coding bootcamp, you still have more work to do. Why is this the case? Coding bootcamps are a radically different way to learn a skill. They’re focused on rapid learning through immersion, and they value the knowledge and experience you acquire at an accelerated pace. Unlike traditional learning institutions, the value you’re getting isn’t:

Coding bootcamps are a radically different way to learn a skill. They’re focused on rapid learning through immersion, and they value the knowledge and experience you acquire at an accelerated pace. Unlike traditional learning institutions, the value you’re getting isn’t:

Coding bootcamps are a radically different way to learn a skill. They’re focused on rapid learning through immersion, and they value the knowledge and experience you acquire at an accelerated pace. Unlike traditional learning institutions, the value you’re getting isn’t:

  • The grade you receive
  • A piece of paper certifying you went through the course

It’s strange, but most learning institutions incentivize students using the carrot and stick approach. But in a coding bootcamp, it’s entirely different. Failure to actually learn the material will set you up to struggle when searching for a job- which is the reason why you signed up for the coding bootcamp in the first place.

This means it’s important to really learn the skills, and learn them for the long haul. You can’t fall back into the habit of treating the work involved like the work you would put in to study for a test.

Traditional school sets us up to be awful at acquiring new skills.

Don’t fall into the trap of spending thousands of dollars on an education that you then treat the same way you’ve treated classwork in the past. Why is that?

Let me rewind and walk you through a story.

In college, I took a class on Network Infrastructure. I hated that class. Network systems have a fairly complex OSI Model, and my class involved learning about how things work at the various levels of the network interface. The professor assigned homework, and I rushed to do all the work at the absolute last minute. I even pulled all-nighters the night before work was due in order to get it done.

When the exam came around, I waited until the last minute, crammed, and got a B- in the class. I was snarky to the professor and I’m pretty sure he disliked me, too. But ultimately, I passed the class, fulfilled the requirement, and proceeded to immediately forget everything I learned.

After everything was said and done, I felt like I had accomplished three things:

  • I got an OK grade
  • My parents weren’t mad that I wasn’t taking school seriously
  • I got one step closer to fulfilling the requirements I needed to receive my degree

And in the process, I learned basically nothing.

Heck, it took me five minutes of googling to even remember the acronym for the concept to tell the story. The fact that I went to class, got a passing grade, and immediately forgot everything is a testament to how broken traditional education is.

But, universities offer a degree– a piece of paper that is recognized by most to indicate a certain level of competency. This is mostly due to the fact that in order to receive a degree, it takes about four years of work– which in itself indicates a certain level of stick-to-itiveness when it comes to learning. In a lot of scenarios, learning pointless stuff to ultimately achieve your goal can make a lot of sense… despite how stupid it sounds.

In fact, this isn’t the only flaw in traditional education that set you up to be a terrible programmer.

If you approach a coding bootcamp with the same mentality– cramming for deadlines, procrastinating, and putting in only the minimum effort required– you’d be better off putting your money towards traditional school.

The things you learn about programming, software, web development, algorithms, and data structures that you retain long after you graduate are the measure of your coding bootcamp experience that counts.

Ultimately, your coding bootcamp experience will be everything you put into it.

The people who excel after their experience at a coding bootcamp are the ones who lean in. They go above and beyond. They write blog posts about their coding journey. They learn things about programming and technology outside the purview of the coding bootcamp they attend. Rather than lean back and slide by with the minimum required work, they’re focused on applying what they’re learning, and they know that the skills and learning how to learn are what really count.

The people who have the most successful coding bootcamp experiences are learning the material not because someone told them to, not to get a good grade, and not to make someone else happy, but because they genuinely want to learn, retain, and use the concepts in the long haul.

Long after the bootcamp is over, they have the ability to continue to learn on their own and dive deeper into topics, even if no one requires them to.

Is it possible to attend a coding bootcamp and get a job as a web developer? Absolutely! The best coding bootcamps cover the breadth of programming concepts you need to know and are guided by the developers with the real-world experience you need to learn from.

If you’re attending a university, it’s reasonable that your goal be to get good grades and graduate. But if you’re attending a coding bootcamp, that simply won’t be enough.

If graduating in itself isn’t enough, then what’s the point?

The point of attending a coding bootcamp is to accelerate to the point of becoming a self-sufficient developer who can resolve coding problems, build new features, and learn new coding concepts from tools like:

  • Blog posts
  • StackOverflow posts
  • And other cheap or free resources available on the internet

Coding bootcamps provide a path to achieve this goal in a matter of weeks or months instead of years. And in addition to a path, they provide technical support and guidance when you need it to get back on track to learn new things.

To see success in your coding bootcamp experience, you need to be internally motivated to learn and willing to go outside your comfort zone. You should be committing to the bootcamp-style of learning in order to genuinely attain a skill, not so you can pick up just enough to satisfy a requirement or impress someone in the short term.

You should be prepared to work on complex algorithm challenges and stretch your programming limits. And after your bootcamp experience is over, you should be able to navigate the technical interview process, in which employers will audit your skills and measure the level of technical depth and experience that you have.

The day you sign up for a coding bootcamp isn’t the day that your goals are destined to be achieved.

You need to take the initial motivation, turn that into a habit, and go down the path to become a self-sufficient developer who is capable of building projects without guidance, learning new concepts, and hitting the technical interview process with confidence that you’ve learned the material deeply.

 

AuthorKen Mazaika

Ken Mazaika is the CTO and co-founder at Firehose. Previously, he was a tech lead at WHERE.com (acquired by PayPal) and a member of the PayPal/eBay development team in Boston.

5 replies on “Why Just Signing Up for a Coding Bootcamp Isn’t Enough to Land a Job as a Developer

  1. I just want a definite answer on which is better, boot camp or CS degree. I am currently looking into both of these options to figure out which way I need to go. You have all the CS degree people saying that boot camps are a scam and they wont get you hired. Then you have all of the boot camp people saying that CS degrees are pointless and a waste of time. I just want to know which would be better. Also, with a boot camp what do you put on a resume so that employers look at you? Boot camp graduate?

    1. I would not say bootcamps are worthless because the quality is subjective.

      but the undisputed fact is that employers do appreciate and respect the 4 year bachelor degree and you’ll most likely get the opportunity to be interviewed.

      BS degree + decent bootcamp = excellent!
      decent bootcamp with no formal education = struggle and under appreciation for your entire life

    2. Hey Zach, thanks for your question. From my point of view, both CS degrees and coding bootcamps are effective ways to land a job as a programmer. There are pros and cons to each option, and I’m pretty familiar with both because of my background. I studied CS at Northeastern University and worked at a couple different types of companies as a developer, and I started Firehose (an online coding bootcamp).

      I wrote a detailed outline of the upsides and downsides to each option on here, and I think it should help clear things up for you: https://www.quora.com/Should-I-get-a-bachelors-degree-in-computer-science-or-go-to-coding-boot-camp/answer/Ken-Mazaika?srid=u5Yss

      On your resume question, most people list their bootcamp experience under a section called “Professional Development.” You can include other things like seminars and additional training in this section too. You can also list out “Projects” in a section, and use that as a jumping-off point for the dev work that you’ve done in a bootcamp.

      Thanks for reading,
      Ken

  2. I appreciate your point in highlighting the mindset necessary for a student to succeed in the intensely high-speed/broad scope milieu of a coding bootcamp. This fact may help prevent many students succumbing to the “99% job offers” or “no experience necessary” banners that are posted on many Learn to Code bootcamp websites.
    However, your article makes a causal relationship between the student’s work ethic and success while avoiding the responsibility of the program’s philosophy, teaching environment and approach to assisting students falling behind, and the instructors’ ability to communicate concepts and strategy, along with jargon and code syntax. These environmental characteristics are probably more important than the individual student’s approach, as many students attempt to learn these principles first online and for free.

    1. Totally agree with you, Patrick. In general, I think what matters most is for bootcamps to understand that they need to have students focus on three things:

      1. Learn how to learn and understand the fundamentals before moving onto more complex issues.

      2. Know how to be part of an actual software engineering team – think about communication, development workflow, writing tests and doing proper code reviews.

      3. Focus on algorithms and data structures so you’re able to build advanced web applications.

      Thanks for reading,
      Ken

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