6 thoughts on “What bootcamp grads should know that they don’t?”

  1. I graduated for a boot camp in 2018 and was recently promoted to Sr. Software Engineer at my organization. I can only speak for my experience at a boot camp, and a second one I’m reasonably well-acquainted with in my city; I’m certain there are different approaches at different places.

    What made me feel like my time there prepared me in any way for this career was understanding that I wasn’t learning how to write code, I was learning how to be an engineer. Understanding engineering principles, abstract problem solving, learning your tools and frankly insane abstractions like version control tools, command line navigation, writing on the same piece of software at the same time as other people, so many things we take for granted as engineers are kind of unnatural patterns, especially for the typical boot camp student. The language you choose and code you write are almost immaterial; it could be anything, it could be a made up language. Don’t expect to be a good coder when you graduate, expect your brain to have trained to think and reason about problems and process like an engineer.

    Many bootcamps just want butts in seats and high graduation /placement rates. You _must_ take responsibility for your own success. Depending on the program, the material may be weak, there may be good engineers but poor communicators in charge, your resources may not have high availability. Work with the other students, put in the extra time, don’t stop asking questions if you don’t know something.

    As an upside of the above, good programs have strong post-class career development apparatus and a network of orgs willing to take on juniors. _Use it_. It’s arguably the most important component of a boot camp. If you’re in a strong program that employers trust to produce good quality junior engineering candidates, it’s a hell of a lot easier when they go to bat for you than throwing yourself into that particular ocean.

    Lastly, and you’ll hear this too much and for the rest of your career, imposter syndrome is real, it’s ok to feel, and we know the odds are you’re going to have it. I sold fucking tvs, washing machines, and cell phones into my 30s; I shouldn’t be an engineer, much less a senior anything. But here we are. When you leave class and talk to prospective employers, know that we know that you don’t know anything. Strongly consider shops that have a proven track record of mentorship or can talk about it fluently.

    You’ll learn “how to code” on the job; that was never going to happen any other way. If you dedicate yourself to learning how to think and work like an engineer in class, we’ll take you the rest of the way.

  2. I’ve been hiring and interviewing boot camp grads for a long time.
    I feel that a lot of boot camps teach a process of coding as opposed to teaching fundamental principles of logic. This makes boot camp grads “one-trick ponies” where they are repeating something they saw rather than reasoning through it.

    A lot of boot camp grads I interview know how to follow the assembly line and make stuff they’ve seen before. They might know how to make a web request using `fetch` , they might know how to do error handling based on a returned JSON payload.

    But if the error page comes back in HTML, and the console spits out a gnarly error message, they tend to lack even basic debugging skills to uncover how the error came about.

    I also see folks finding answers on StackOverflow and just wholesale copy-pasting them. They don’t attempt to understand *why* the SO answer worked, they see *that* it worked and just paste it in.

    So I would encourage bootcamp grads to learn debugging, and focus on fundamentals like what a `for` or `while` loop looks like in their language.

  3. Serious question. I swear I am not trolling. Why would anyone want to do a boot camp over just getting a degree?

  4. This is a hard question to answer because everyone’s experience is different. For example, I attended a Rails boot camp in 2017. I quit my 9-5 because I wanted to make sure I was fully committed to making this transition. In the process, I took on a scary amount of credit card debt and still remember the dreadful feeling that this was not going to work out and I would never get a job in the industry.

    The boot camp I signed up for was “highly rated” on every site I checked but was very disappointing. They overpromised and underdelivered in just about every area imaginable. For example, our one and only instructor had just graduated from the cohort before ours and had zero experience.

    The best advice I would give someone in your situation is to try to get involved in the local dev community. I know given the times it is much more challenging but after I graduated I focused on attending every rails or webdev meetup I could find and during one of those meetups I met someone who was willing to give me a chance and bring me on as a Jr. dev. This is not one of those stories you read where you graduate from bootcamp and make 6 figures my starting salary was 35k.

    This was the best decision I made, I joined a small team of very passionate and experienced developers that were patient and willing to show me the ropes. I felt that I was finally getting the instruction I craved from my bootcamp but was getting paid to learn.

    Once you land your first job the real test begins but if you show that you are interested and willing to learn you will be surprised how many people are willing to take you under their wing. Getting that first job is hard but the good news is after you get your foot in the door things get much easier in regards to finding work.

    Through many late nights and a little bit of luck I was able to increase my salary from 35k to \~175k as of this year and I can finally say for the first time in my life that I enjoy my job.

    The final thing I want to warn you about is imposter syndrome. I often felt like I didn’t deserve the job I had and was just waiting to be found out as a boot camp fraud developer. Unfortunately, I still get this feeling from time to time, for example, I just accepted a new role at my company last week and all of those feelings came rushing back. I would just say don’t worry this is a common feeling and you will look back and laugh in a few years.

    Sorry for the thesis but one last note that might be helpful. I wrote a post on reddit that talks about getting my first job and some of the unexpected challenges I faced. It should touch on a few things you are concerned about and there is some great advice in the comments as well: [https://www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming/comments/4y7e3d/i\_began\_teaching\_myself\_to\_code\_a\_year\_ago\_i\_got/](https://www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming/comments/4y7e3d/i_began_teaching_myself_to_code_a_year_ago_i_got/)

  5. how to emotionally cope with the fact that you don’t know anything, will struggle for a few years, and that’s perfectly okay.

    if you can learn how to just grind and learn, you’ll succeed.


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