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CODING BOOTCAMP NIGHTMARE: Meet Sarah the Dev

realtoughcandy profile image RealToughCandy.io Originally published at realtoughcandy.io ・7 min read

Welcome to the third installment of our Web Dev Interview Series.

In this series, we interview developers on what got them started, where they are now, what they'd do differently, and more.

We're excited to introduce you to Sarah the Dev, our moderator extraordinaire over at the RTC Discord.

Today she talks about her bootcamp nightmare.

You'll laugh.

You'll cry.

You'll think twice before handing over stacks of cash to learn web development.

Read on... if you dare.

Note: Answers have been edited for clarity and space constraints.

This blog post is brought to you by RealToughCandy.io.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hello my name is Sarah, also known as Sarah the Dev. I currently work as a substitute teacher and also in the retail world. I am currently attempting to make a career switch back to development as I did a bit after college 10-ish years ago.

I also have a Certificate in Recording Arts and a Bachelors of Arts degree in Digital Media Arts. Besides coding, I also enjoy listening to/recording music, sports, and air show photography.

If I have any spare time after those activities, I enjoy reading autobiographies of musicians and historical figures.

air show with 5 planes and smoke flying in different directions with mountains in background

2. There are many ways to learn web development. What made you decide to go to a coding bootcamp?

I had previously taken a few computer science and web development/design classes in college. I had also done some freelance work out of college. It had been about 10 years since I had done any web dev stuff and I decided I wanted to get back into it for a career change.

I started relearning on my own with the help of many online resources but I was struggling with a few things and wanted to fill in the blanks.

So I decided to go to a bootcamp thinking this would help fill in the stuff I was struggling with, at a faster pace than I was doing on my own.

3. Tell us about your bootcamp experience.

My bootcamp experience was not great, to put it nicely. I signed up for a 12-week, in person bootcamp. The bootcamp said no experience necessary.

They had you do some pre-course work. That was pretty easy for me as I already was comfortable with HTML/CSS and some JavaScript. Come the first day, if you were not at mid-level of HTML/CSS and JavaScript, you were going to be struggling.

I attended an in-person bootcamp as I thought being in person was good for networking and learning team work. And having an instructor present would be available for the questions I had or if I ran into any issues.

I am also kinda old school and like to learn in a class setting. Unfortunately, although this particular bootcamp said during open house they did all these things, they did not.

There was no working on projects together, the only thing you did with a classmate besides go to lunch was maybe see if they could help you if you were stuck on something. But they were usually stuck on the same thing.

classroom of adult students with computers raising hands for help

If you did get stuck and asked for help, the instructor would just shrug and tell you to figure it out yourself. As far as networking, it seemed it was every man/woman for themselves. I spent about 12+ hours a day in class and learned absolutely nothing that I didn’t already know. It was a huge waste of my time and money.

4. What challenges did you face as a bootcamp student?

There were many challenges during the 6 weeks I stayed in the bootcamp. First, the bootcamp had a policy to struggle for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes you can ask for help from a classmate.

Normally I would struggle for way longer than 20 minutes. Then if I still couldn't figure out my issue I would talk to a classmate, whom 90% of the time couldn’t figure out the issue either. So after struggling ourselves and asking a classmate for help we were then allowed to ask the instructor for help.

Usually an hour, and sometimes several hours, had passed at this point. Once we asked the instructor for help we would usually get the following comment “I will let you figure that out.”

I was in bootcamp to fill in the blanks of info that I didn’t know and I was being told by an instructor to “go figure it out myself.”

woman leaning over laptop with hand on head

5. Holy mackerel. What other challenges did you face?

Other challenges: One of my instructors was a former student who had just graduated about 3 months prior to me attending. He had no teaching skills and couldn’t answer basic questions.

The bootcamp was poorly organized. Many of the assignments were “optional" on the learning platform but you really should be doing them. For example, a section on GitHub was optional and when I ask the instructor why it was optional he said “its not important” and that “no one uses it.”

If you did do the optional assignments you would fall behind and it was hard to catch up. I saw a few classmates quit because of this.

woman with curly hair looking at laptop with hands up in frustration

Things went very fast and if you did fall behind you we're just going to have to skip assignments or hope you figure out what your issues were quickly so you could catch up and move on.

I skipped a lot of assignments I thought I should be doing. Even though I knew a fair amount of stuff going in I felt clueless and dumb most of the time.

They also didn’t give you much direction on where to start. They just said to follow the platform.

We had 45 minutes of daily lectures which were usually different from the assignments and topics on the platform, which was a bit confusing to most of us.

I think my biggest challenge was the morning algorithms. I had never seen anything like this in my life before. They would stick a problem on the white board and break us into groups of 3-4 and tell us to solve it. There was no reading up on anything the day before and no clues on how to solve it.

Most of us were completely lost and had no idea what was going on. There were only 2 students out of about 15 who actually understood them and they were the 2 with the computer science degrees.

pile of hundreds of puzzle pieces

6. What were some red flags you saw? How did you deal with them?

Unfortunately, I should have known better than to attend this bootcamp because my first red flag was when I went to their open house and asked two questions they couldn’t answer.

It was a little shocking they couldn’t answer what the difference in their platform and classes were compared to Udemy. And how much working on your own there will be.

I also asked about local businesses who hire grads and they just said they had several companies that come to them to hire grads; it turned out this was not true. They just had a list of companies in the surrounding areas they had gotten online, and you had to contact them just like any other job.

Another red flag was that I couldn’t find any negative reviews online about them. They only had “amazing” stories about that one grad who was making 6 figures. To be honest the whole bootcamp was one big RED FLAG.

large red rectangle flag on wooden pole

7. If you could do it all over, what would you do differently?

This question is easy, I wouldn’t go.

I think I fell for the “you can get a job in 12 weeks” gimmick. I thought maybe I would have a leg up considering I have a BA degree, I knew some code going in and I had freelanced before. I fell for the 12 weeks, 6-figure gimmick and I really should have known better.

8. What would restore your trust in bootcamps?

To be honest I really don’t know if anything could restore my trust in a bootcamp. I have learned more from free online resources and cheap Udemy classes than I did in bootcamp. So why would I waste my money again?

9. Would you go to another bootcamp? Why or why not?

Probably not, after seeing how the platform of my bootcamp was set up and watching the production of the videos it was really discouraging.

You have a multi-million dollar company that is recording videos with no lighting or microphone on an old iPhone-type device. You cannot hear or even see some of what they are doing.

Not getting questions answered or help when needed and paying a lot of money to go. I guess my fear is that they are all like this.

10. Do you think sites like Udemy are as good as bootcamps?

Yes, I do think sites like Udemy or freeCodeCamp and even some YouTube tutorials are just as good, if not better than, some of the stuff I was having to deal with at my bootcamp.

Just make sure you are learning from an updated course.

11. What advice do you have for developers looking to attend a bootcamp?

Do your research.
Do more research and just when you think you have found one you like, do more research.

I can’t emphasize that enough. If you do decide to go, don’t go to a 12-week 3-stack bootcamp that will promise you 6 figures out the door.

Especially if you are a beginner. You will most likely not make it and waste your time and money.

12. Final advice: Is there anything you’d like to add? Some parting words of wisdom?

My final advice is to self-teach, don’t waste your money on a bootcamp.

Don’t get in debt to learn code. I know 6 figures in 12 weeks sounds amazing, but it is not reality.

If you're a beginner, just focus on learning one thing at a time. Use all the resources you can find online, go to meetups, and join coding communities. You can and will learn to code this way and you will get that great paying job.

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