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To Bootcamp or Not To Bootcamp

nataliecodes profile image natalie stroud Updated on ・3 min read

3/25/2019 3:36PM UPDATE: Welp, spoke with the bootcamp. They were incredibly impressed after asking me what my timeline would look like for working on things. I went into huge detail about using freeCodeCamp, SoloLearn, Udemy, etc. Talking about how I look at jobs but never apply for them because I'm nervous and not as confident. Only thing now is I need to talk to someone about financing which still makes me nervous.


Whenever it was I decided to get serious about coding, I discovered bootcamps. Initially I had done some searching for 'web designer' and 'web developer' (yes, I know, two different things) jobs on LinkedIn and Indeed. I came across one of those 'too good to be true (but I fell for it anyway)' job postings. There was one for a Front End Dev position with no list of languages I needed to know stating the job would start off with paid training. Later I come to find out this includes some kind of contract and shipping off a few states over and it would be a bootcamp-like setting. The plus side? It was free, you were paid. The place would pay for you to move but that just wasn't (still isn't) an option.

So I dove in more into the bootcamp idea and came across one that's two hours away from me. They have a flexible program for those who work full time (or you just need something that works with your schedule) so you wouldn't have to quit your job or drop everything to go in and code, code, code. So I took the bait and started with the process of looking into this bootcamp. My concerns though are the financing (especially with a new-ish car and some student loan debt from college) and the mandatory weekends where I would need to make some kind of arrangement to stay in the bootcamp's city for the weekend (hotel, maybe family?, drive 2 hours to and from both Saturday and Sunday).

As I went through the process though, I took the readiness test. I emailed the admissions rep to confirm I'd completed the test and she said a student success coach would be in contact. A day or so later I talked to my dad about the idea and he stressed to 'be careful'. Days continued to go by and I had heard nothing regarding the bootcamp, making the assumption that maybe I messed up on the readiness test. I chalked it up in my head that maybe no response meant 'no' and to move on.
So I stumbled across Udemy and found Colt Steele's Web Dev Bootcamp which is ultimately A LOT cheaper (and it was on sale when I paid - $11.99!). Before going the bootcamp route, I did my research. Was it a good idea? What could I expect going this route? Should I get my master's instead? Should I do self-taught? I looked the bootcamp up on Course Report, looked at reviews. Compared it to a bootcamp actually in my city (which has no flexible option and is $1000 more).

I guess what I'm saying is, anyone out there with bootcamp experience? If so, did you come across the same 'what ifs'/questions/anxieties? Would you recommend it? Not recommend? Why?

Or...

Are you self-taught? Obtained your masters or undergrad in this area? Why did you choose this route? Did you consider a bootcamp? What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you everyone and happy Tuesday! :)

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kateyanko profile image
Kate Yanko

If I had the money and no opportunities to network in my city, a bootcamp would be the way I would go. Luckily, I live in a city where every meetup you go to leads you to at least 2+ new connections, and almost every one of those connections led me to opportunities. I went to around 6 meetups in two weeks, and had over 6 interviews from those meetup connections alone. Networking works!

I am self-taught and completed Colt Steele's The Web Developer Bootcamp (which took me around 12 full-time weeks). I received a job 2 weeks after completion. Here's the caveat: I didn't wait for a dev job. I went into testing instead.

I took a QA test engineer role with a track to move into automated testing, then eventually a web dev role if I want to. Partly, this was because I was just so eager to get into technology that I didn't really care what aspect of the industry I got into, but the other half was financial. I wanted a paycheck while I explore the industry and what my likes/dislikes are.

If I were to have waited to get a dev job--it could have been another 6 months of self-study, projects, etc. It's just really up to you-- what's your timeline, what are your financial considerations, etc.

Ok that was a long response, sorry! Best of luck and keep us posted on what you do :)

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

Networking is great and one of those skills I need to become better at. I have a hard time with it sometimes because it's like choosing between that and staying home. Not to mention I'm well aware I'm losing out by not networking. I am a co-organizer of Ladies That UX in my area and it's been a great thing to join but I need to step things up in terms of the job search (definitely can't say I've gotten interviews and I've been there a year lol).

And no worries for the long response, I'm all ears! I keep sitting here having faith and hope that maybe I'll land that dev job if I just do the online coding bootcamp. He says at the beginning it's the 'only bootcamp' you'll need to become a developer and I can't help but think on one hand that it's too good to be true. Idk if that's experience or what.

I worry a lot about the time and the money. I'm currently a full time employee as well as volunteer at a Children's Hospital plus active in my church and taking care of my mom from a stroke she had 6 months ago. I code during downtime at work at after work too when I have time but occasionally I need some rest or a break.

Thank you for your input, Kate! <3

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kateyanko profile image
Kate Yanko

Wow, kudos to you for all the plates you're keeping spinning while staying dedicated to learning. Rooting for you! Can't wait to hear what you decide.

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ahmaddeel profile image
AhmadDeel

Well as I love physics, I'm finishing my Ph.D. but as I love coding, I am a sort of self taught. That kept me busy for off times and weekends for 2 years. Now I am on my first year job. That's it, my experience; happy coding

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

Thank you Ahmad! What helped you to stay motivated on the self-taught track with being in school and such?

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ahmaddeel profile image
AhmadDeel

The very nature of coding and digging deep into data structures and algorithms.
I love problem solving but I faced many pits of despair where I asked myself why I'm doing this. And to be honest I asked myself where to go because there were many languages and choosing the right one was hard. Now I know that those 2 years learning the basics would pay off because I can start any new language or framework with ease, and still try to learn more and dig more. That's my motivation

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

That's great Ahmad! I feel I have the same approach with problem solving even if it requires taking a step back. Much like yourself I've found that learning the fundamentals of a language seems to help with learning other languages. For example, I've dabbled just a little in JavaScript and I've found that learning to basics of Python helped a lot in understand different JS concepts.

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mikkel250 profile image
mikkel250

I'm currently doing an online boot camp while working full time. It definitely takes a lot of self discipline to get through, but might be worth looking into (I'm sure was already mentioned, but I didn't read every comment).
Fwiw, if I had to do it all over and had recently graduated from University, I would say to my younger self: defer your loans and take two years and get a master's (or higher) in CS, as this will give you a leg up after you graduate (some employers will take that over no degree and 2-4 years experience). Do internships during the summer if possible.
That being said, if you want to do it as fast as possible, boot camp is the way to go (I wouldn't commute that far to do one in person, but that's just me).

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

Thank you :) The online bootcamp I'm working on is nice and detailed, not just your 'fundamentals'. It's definitely been something I'm looking into. Unfortunately the one 2 hours away from me has the flexible program and is $1000 cheaper. The one 30 min away from me would require me to quit my job, go in 9-3 everyday and costs more. I figure I'll save that $1000 and use it for gas (haha). I've also considered my master's which I know would cost more than the bootcamp or the self taught option but my thing is I'd want to look into ComputerSci/CIT or UX Design. I also just applied for an internship and was contacted last night to continue filling out more in the interview process but I wouldn't be a fit for the company as I work 40 hours a week and may not be available when software engineers are.

I greatly appreciate your input, thank you!

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cookrdan profile image
Dan

Are you good at self-learning? As in- can you stay disciplined, consistent, and finish?

I would say that no matter what kind of boot camp or degree you do, if you really haven’t put in a lot of hard work and if you don’t know your stuff, that will be evident in a job interview.

I don’t have a dev job yet. I’m trying to work through the stuff over on freecodecamp. One thing I like about freecodecamp is that it gives you a lot of opportunity to spend time on projects (which provides more chance to grow related skills). It’s not just acquiring knowledge.

Anyway, if you’re not good at self-learning, I’d recommend just going to a boot camp or a course.

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

Thanks Dan! Honestly not sure how proficient I am in self-learning. I've felt I've been self-taught since I was younger. My dad gave me a red binder with all kinds of HTML examples when I was younger and away I went just reading and trying different code. I can look things up when I need help. I spend what free time I have in between work and outside activities on coding. I think I struggle with the discipline part sometimes but as of late it's gotten better. I've had some personal things come up where family needed me more than coding did but now that things have died down I'd say the self-taught route is going well.

I think more than anything I need to be realistic about timing and how much work I need to do because it's seeming like there is a lot for where I need/want to be.

Freecodecamp is awesome! I love the courses and I'm finding in the beginning there's a lot I know. I've moved to the JavaScript unit now so I'm trying to wrap my head around that. I think it would be beneficial for me to go back through these projects and add to them as I mainly tried to be sure I met everything on the checklist first.

Thank you for your input!

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cookrdan profile image
Dan

Nice!

Yeah I have enjoyed freecodecamp, but got off the rails from busyness. I’m still too busy and it is a bit unreasonable for me to commit a lot of time there. But in the meantime I’ve now spent some time learning some other things that I wanted to (like git).

All the best to you as you keep trusging along!

Maybe after you feel like you have a good grasp on areas that are of interest to you, you can step back and evaluate where you’re headed. If it’s a type of job that requires certain skills, evaluate what is missing in your skillset then find a way to develop those skills. The hard part I think in web development is that required skills seem to change every Tuesday. Anyway, keep working hard no matter what!

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

Thank you so much Dan! You're right, it does seem to change so often. I've found that between web development and even just design. As soon as I graduated college, poof, my skills were outdated. I definitely know I want to do front end. I just need to get organized on what I need to learn and not try to learn everything so much.

I'm glad I've found others who can relate to potentially needing breaks from coding or being busy for other things sometimes. Makes me feel like I don't need to beat myself up so much in all of this.

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desi profile image
Desi

I'm kind of an amalgamation. Lots of self-taught, a Skillcrush blueprint, a Superhi course, and lots more self-teaching. Right now I'm thinking through what I want to learn and why, and using that to make my own sort of "course curriculum" for 100 Days of Code.

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nataliecodes profile image
natalie stroud Author

I'm kind of an amalgamation. Lots of self-taught, a Skillcrush blueprint, a Superhi course, and lots more self-teaching. Right now I'm thinking through what I want to learn and why, and using that to make my own sort of "course curriculum" for 100 Days of Code.

I still need to check out Superhi :D This Udemy course I've been taking is great and I'm trying to hash out some personal projects now. I'm finding it's another great way of learning to break away from the online bootcamp... but super easy to get frustrated and discouraged. I think that would be a perk of the bootcamp is having that in person support. But again... time, money.

Thank you so much, desi!

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dylanesque profile image
Michael Caveney

Do you have a fair amount of money and time, and learn well under rapid time constraints? If so, a reputable bootcamp could be a really good option for you. I would love to have had the option to go to bootcamp and speed up the learning process, but the time constraint is too brutal. Self-taught CAN work well, but you need a lot of structure to not wander whilst learning and determination, since the job search process is very trying.

If you want to learn web development, you should NOT get a masters since that would be overkill, and the curriculum would likely not be relevant, or up to date.

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natalie stroud Author

All very good points, Michael. Time is my biggest worry for bootcamp (and $). Whereas self-taught you have all the time which is a blessing and a curse. If I have all this time given all that I do outside of work, it's great. But I feel it's only going to slow me down to do that.

Thank you!!

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yorodm profile image
Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

I have what Americans will consider a B.Eng in Information Technology (had too look it up, your education system is so different) which usually takes 5 years to complete (some people take less) and has 50/51 courses (42 mandatory, and 8 or 9 optionals, in my case all where e-goverment related). I also semi-completed a Masters in Free Software Technologies (didn't complete my thesis) back when the whole Free Software was a total thing, I also completed several post grad courses.

But...back in those days I worked in academia, and people in academia believe that taking classes is the solution for everything. In hindsight I've learned more from involving in Free Software and Open Source projects than in a classroom. Of course, they're are different kinds of knowledge, but all of them have their place in the "tech space".

A friend of mine use to compare this to building a cathedral:

  1. There's an architect that knows all the science.

  2. There's a construction engineer that knows all about the process.

  3. There's a builder that knows how to work the tools (actually there are several builders and each has unique knowledge).

Each of them has value and sometimes a good builder can fix a great design and an architect knows how to handle a shovel.

So TL;DR (cause it's late and I'm rambling) bootcamps are a good option, but self learning needs to be your mantra here because nobody can teach you experience.

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natalie stroud Author

Very well put Yoandy. As I was telling Donald below, it sounds like no matter what there will always be self teaching. Which I know is to be expected. But you're right - nobody can teach me my experience. They can only teach/help from their own experience. I'm eager to grab more experience but it seems like there is so much ahead of me, I just want to make sure I'm making a good choice.

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Donald Sebastian Leung

I'd recommend getting started with a bootcamp since the learning curve offered by such institutions are generally quite shallow and it can help cultivate your interest in programming. But once you get your certificate (or whatever it is), don't forget to constantly self-learn by Googling, Stack Overflow-ing and/or searching for other online resources. The coding concepts typically covered in a bootcamp are very basic and definitely far from adequate for finding a reasonable job in the area even if your bootcamp persuades you otherwise.

As for a proper degree in Computer Science / Computer Engineering / Electronic Engineering or related fields (IT?), I personally don't think it is mandatory since a lot of theoretical stuff perhaps not directly related to the workplace are often taught. But I chose this path in the end anyway* due to sheer interest and do not regret it in any way (:

* Just to clarify, I haven't finished my studies yet - I'm still in my second year (out of 4) of pursuing my BEng in Computer Science and Engineering.

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natalie stroud Author

Wonderful, Donald! I wish you the best in your track to IT. I studied Media Informatics which I always says is Computer Science meets Digital Art. Well, sort of. I've heard great things about bootcamps so I'm not worried much in a sense of accreditation but more so in the quality and skills. I also struggle with knowing almost all of this stuff can be found online so why pay $10000+ for it. It clearly has it's pros and it's cons and it sounds like even in the end you'll still go the self-taught route too.

Thank you!

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maheshkay profile image
Mahesh K

My opinion: If the instructors are good, placements are consistent then it's worth giving a shot.

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natalie stroud Author

Thanks Mahesh! I did show on Course Report they didn't have a guarantee on job placement but talking to admissions they stated they do career services and networking. Basically teaching job readiness.

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paulwvnjohi profile image
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natalie stroud Author

Thank you Paul! I'll check this out.