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How I chose my bootcamp, and how you can do it too.

robinyoong profile image Robin Yoong ・5 min read

In a week, I will begin a three-month immersive remote bootcamp with Codesmith NYC.

From deciding between bootcamps, taking on prep classes to technical interviews, and admission, the journey took six months in the making.

In this post, I will focus on the decision-making process that I took to end up with Codesmith. If you are looking for a bootcamp soon, hopefully, this post will help you along.

(Note: I targeted a specific cohort that worked better for my time. It should take you between three to four months.)

1. Location of Bootcamp

Being from Singapore, there are a good number of bootcamps in the country that I could have applied to. However, given that I would be investing a significant amount of time and money in this next step of my career, I wanted something robust, intense, and well-tested. These bootcamps happen to all be in the US.

Having made this decision, my research took me to a more international/US-centric approach, rather than what was available locally.

2. Audited Outcomes

If you have shared your intentions of going to a bootcamp with few people, chances are at least one of them will question your idea with skepticism—and they are not wrong. Successful marketers know that their main business isn't to sell you the product, but to sell you hope. With the rapid rise of bootcamps, there are bound to be some bad apples and false promises of inflated grad salaries and grad employment figures.

To address these concerns, the Council of Integrity of Results Reporting (CIRR) was introduced to standardise how bootcamps report outcomes so that prospective students get access to reliable data vetted by independent auditors.

Each report presented by participating schools has to answer the following questions:

  • How many graduated on time?
  • How many accepted a full-time job in the field for which they trained within six months?
  • How many secured part-time jobs?
  • Did the school itself hire any graduates?
  • How many students' jobs are in fields outside of what they studied for?
  • What are the salaries of grads who started jobs in their field of study?

Note: While CIRR is America-based, participating schools may include data from their overseas branches. Some reputable bootcamps did not participate in CIRR, but have audited statements on their websites. While that is still better than nothing, do look at their report closely to ensure that their outcomes are shaped around reasonable questions.

At the end of the day, we are not exactly looking for 100% accuracy here. The fact that these schools are willing to step forward to be audited should tell us more about their integrity and willingness to be transparent with their data.

3. Reputation

A simple search on Google will yield articles from Bloomberg and blog posts such as this. That must be worrying! At the same time, you must have heard or read some success stories. So what gives?

Course Report and SwitchUp are two of the most comprehensive websites where you can find out more about the bootcamps in detail. Specifically, I looked out for highly-ranked bootcamps that are part of CIRR.

While both websites come with helpful rankings and are packed with information such as cost, job guarantees, and remote-availability, I focused heavily on the reviews. Look out for reviews that include any downsides or cons of the school—these reviews tend to provide a more holistic picture of the learning experience.

*If you are concerned about the authenticity of reviews, Course Report has a filter function that lets you view only reviews by those who have been verified by Linkedin or Github. I would start with that.

4. Alumni

Every bootcamp will tout their superstar-grads who now work at a FAANG company or any big-name outfits. Those alumni, while inspirational, should not be used as guidance. It is more meaningful to look into the outcomes of students who were not featured on the websites.

To do that, you can search for your (somewhat preferred) bootcamp on Linkedin and look at profiles of graduates. For a more targeted approach, refer to the reviewers on Course Report who have been verified via Linkedin and look them up. Have they been working in a software-related role after graduation? Were they already in a relevant role before bootcamp? Was it the bootcamp that changed their careers? Did they have a Computer Science degree from school?

The objective of this step is to give you a good grasp of the representation of alumni of the recent batches. As long as you feel comfortable about what you are looking at, then that is good enough.

Should you require more clarity, you may wish to message them on Linkedin or Twitter.

5. Languages && Frameworks

If you have been reading up on programming-related material before, you may have a preference as to the type of language and frameworks that you want to focus on during the bootcamp. Make sure these languages and frameworks are taught in the schools of your choice.

This step is ideal and preferable, though not required. For full-stack development, you would be in safe hands to focus on JavaScript. Here is an article to learn more:
FreeCodeCamp - How to Become a Full Stack Web Developer in 2020

6. Teaching Styles

Once I narrowed down the final list, I attended as many free workshops provided by those schools to gauge the teaching styles—preferably, from lead instructors or founders. Given many bootcamp grads end up becoming teaching fellows, I wanted a style and culture that I could resonate with. This was key.

Eventually, my research led me to JS Hard Parts at Frontend Masters, taught by Will Sentance, the founder of Codesmith. The clarity, structured approach, and humour made the learning stick. That moment, I knew that Codesmith was it for me.

This varies differently for everyone, the best way is to sign up and attend the workshops to see what works for you.

7. Bonus - Reverse the interview

Going on a call with advisors from the bootcamps will help clarify any questions that you may have and help you decide if the school is a culture fit for you. It says a lot when a school is consistent with their email responses and follow-ups. It may seem trivial, but how can students be confident that the school will help with any form of job and post-graduation support if basic administrative functions are not done well?

Given that technical interviews are almost a compulsory step in every (decent) bootcamp admissions process—here's an idea—why don't you decide based on how challenging the interviews are? That might be an indication of the level that they are expecting from you and your peers, which would translate into the depth of your curriculum. Your conversations with your interviewers will help solidify your decision.

Do you have any other methods that you would use to decide on which bootcamps to go for? Leave a message below. I will be happy to discuss them.

About Robin

☝ I write about the journey to being a software engineer.

✌ Started //CodeswitchDev, a podcast and a platform of resources for those looking to switch to programming. Episodes coming up!

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Follow me on Twitter for more threads and thoughts 👉 @robinyoong

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