Coding Bootcamps and Career-Switching and Admissions Strategies, Oh My!
July 11, 2014 10:48 AM Subscribe
I'm starting to seriously plan for a career-switch to programming, going the Coding Bootcamp route as a way to jump-start my skills, my portfolio and my networking. I want advice on how best to prepare and what to expect. Snowflakes, as always, inside.
Married, 29, living in a large metro area with lots of technology companies.
I have a BA in a social science field from a prestigious university and an eclectic job history over the last eight years (copywriting, editing, research/higher ed admin, political organizing).
I never got into programming when I was younger (other than copying BASIC programs out of Boys' Life back in the early 90's), but I was always a quick study on various related tasks. Recently, after being lavishly praised for what seemed to me a relatively simple semi-technical contract job (not involving actual coding, but something very similar), I decided to look more seriously into learning to program. I've spent 50-100 hours over the last two months teaching myself Python through various online resources (MITx, OpenCourseware, Codecademy, Project Euler), and I've found myself enjoying it immensely. I know that a programming job won't be as much fun, but I find the actual act of coding much more relaxing, enjoyable, and rewarding than the main tasks in my previous jobs. (Writing and organizing were enjoyable and rewarding, but very stress-inducing [not to mention difficult to get paid for], admin work was stress-inducing without even being enjoyable or rewarding). I actually get home from work in the evening looking forward to spending a couple hours working through coding courses or coding up a solution to a Project Euler problem.
I'm currently working temp jobs of varying pay and crappiness at the University where I was a full-time employee before I ran off to become a political organizer.
Our financial resources are such that the tuition and other expenses of a coding bootcamp would be very manageable, but we can't very well afford just to throw away such a sum on a wild goose chase.
I'm targeting a coding bootcamp with a good reputation both for teaching and supporting and placing its graduates that starts in my city in November. My plan is to keep working the crappy temp jobs until then, while spending as much spare time as I have beefing up my skills. Hopefully that then gives me the credentials, portfolio and contacts I need to land a full-time job.
I feel like I've done my research and pretty much already settled the "Is a bootcamp worth the time and money?" question, although if you have strong opinions, especially if they're related to my specific situation, I'd be happy to hear them.
What should I do to make myself attractive to a good, and presumably selective, coding bootcamp? The bootcamps say that they don't expect any prior experience, but is it actually realistic to get into one of these with only a couple months coding experience, let alone succeed?
Should I apply right away? It looks like applications will remain open for a while. My instinct is to apply right away and get it over with, but would I be a more compelling candidate if I stuck my nose to the grindstone for another month or two and had something more to show for my work than an EdX certificate and my code for the first 15 project Euler problems?
What can I do between now and November to best prepare myself for a bootcamp and get the most out of it?
What is the market like now for junior Ruby-on- Rails developers? What's the going rate for the entry level? (Boston-specific information especially appreciated)