Bootcamp : two years after

I know there are many developers out there that have started their career by what we call a bootcamp, I’m one of them.

Am I the typical one? Is there such a thing as a “typical” bootcamp developer? All I can do here, is talk about my experience. I’ll start by giving you some details so you may have a better understand of my point of view (besides, we all know that development is in the details, right?).

Which one?

I can’t really speak about bootcamps as a general practice, but the one I chose was a three-month web development bootcamp, with chunks of PHP, MySQL, Javascript and of course HTML/CSS. It is delivered by 3W Academy in France, where we don’t use the term “bootcamp” so much and you may have yours paid on public funds (which I did not).

There might be several other ones out there, but every other one I’ve heard of was leaned onto web development too, with different duration and maybe other back-end language.

From zero to a job in three months, really?

As you may have guessed, three months is a short time span to learn a totally new job.

In fact, it is not really a job, or even a tech stack that we were learning, it was rather a kickstart to our developing journey. By coding seven hours a day, five days a week, it did really set some habits as well as getting the fact that we are coders now well written into our mind (and this is important, as many – if not every – freshly taught developer often suffer from what we call “impostor syndrome”, check on the web if you’re curious about it).

What we did there

Code. Basically had websites to build and we did it until our brains were sore. Even if the bootcamp I took part in was not the most hardcore one, each day really felt like a hard day’s work. New uses of a language to grasp every morning, and to apply on a project in the afternoon.

We tried to keep consistency in the pace, but some didn’t progress as fast as others, so we ended up on an in-between to satisfy the most of us. It can be frustrating to have your time-limited bootcamp slowed down by people who didn’t perform as well as you do (cockiness over 9,000!) , but by lending them a hand, we ended up consolidating the freshly learned lesson in our brain.

Overall, we had a good mood all around and sharing the same goal was driving us forward.

What we didn’t there

Computer science. My bootcamp was really focused on practical use of web languages and we didn’t delve into the most basics of computer science. No algorithms, no theory of data structure, we barely scratched the MVP design pattern and OOP paradigm, without even worrying about what was a design pattern or a paradigm.

That’s where bootcamp developers differentiate with IT school graduates I believe. And it will filter the jobs you will be searching for in the next months or years. I met a teacher from one of those bootcamps that said to me that there are several companies looking to hire developers to operate on their internals tools and that’s the kind of job that bootcamps developers are the better suited for. He also said that jobs in software/web edition companies (companies that work on products) are more demanding. It might be his own point of view, but I found it worth mentioning.

Results may vary

There are several factors that can affect your learning with this approach, but the biggest one is: yourself!

Like I wrote previously, you can’t just rely on the bootcamp to learn a complete field in such a short timespan. You are however building your developer mindset, a mindset that will drive you to use every working day and every task you’re assigned to as opportunities to learn something new or to refine your skills.

You may not feel like a ‘real’ developer right after the bootcamp (*cough* *cough* impostor syndrome… *cough*), but I’ll argue that being a developer is not a goal, but rather a process. A process into which you’ve taken your first steps and you’d better keep the pace of day-to-day learning and coding.

In the end

Are bootcamp worth it? I can’t just give a definitive answer as it really depends on you. But I can highlight some key considerations here:

Bootcamps are great if you have habits of learning by yourself and committing to it. It will strengthen these habits and you will have a dedicated period where you’ll focus on coding and be surrounded by people sharing the same goals, boosting each other’s motivation and helping or asking for help when things get tough. I wouldn’t recommend you to just jump in a bootcamp without a prior experiment in the field you’re gonna be investing yourself in though, as it is a serious investment in both time and money. (Luckily, there is plenty of content to start learning by yourself on the web. I ,for one, started with Khan Academy lessons and exercises before realizing how much I love coding)

You may not get your dream job as soon as you complete your bootcamp, in fact it is slightly probable, and you may even go back to an unrelated job in the meantime you find a programming job. This is totally okay. Mastering a field take time, and learning development is a consistent process, don’t stop right after your first job refusal! Instead continue coding, find an internship if you have the opportunity, build a project for free, like for a non-profit or a family member’s business, or even your own personal project. Then you’ll have something to show to companies when you’ll apply to job opportunities, even if it’s not really good, they will notice your commitment and passion for coding, two qualities that are highly valuable for professionals!

As a side note, I did start as a freelancer right after my bootcamp, and I wouldn’t really recommend it. As it just added up fields to learn on top of development and professional attitude (it is really important, especially if it’s your first job), like financial management, marketing and administration. I shall mention that I have met other bootcamp developers that chose that way too, and managed well better than me. It depends on one’s personality I guess, so just be warned.

You may (or not, but we’ll just pretend) want to ask what I’ve been doing for these two years apart failing at managing my own business, but I feel there is already pennies for your thought in this post. I’ll get in touch soon though, no worries.

Happy learning folks!