What are your experiences with and opinions about developer bootcamps?
February 21, 2014 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Hello folks, this question is for those of you have been involved with developer bootcamps, and also those of you who evaluate developers for hiring.

I'm considering going to this one - http://www.deltaprogram.us/index.html

And now for some context - I had until last year worked as an Android developer. I lost
the job for a couple of reasons, one of them was underperforming. I am self-taught, and my
skills and understanding of the system were not keeping pace with my colleagues, most if
not all of whom came from academic CS backgrounds. I know some things, but there are other
basic things about Android and programming that are missing from my repertoire.

Have you been though a developers bootcamp, or some other intensive learning environment
like a bootcamp? If so, did it make a difference for your career?

If you are in a position to evaluate developers for hiring, have you encountered candidates
that have been though programs like the above, and does it seemed to have helped them?

Thanks in advance for your responses!
posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas to Work & Money (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I went to a developer bootcamp last year. I was a librarian and now I'm working as a software developer. So, yes, I would say it definitely made a difference for me career-wise. It worked out great for me and I'm very glad I did it.


Developer bootcamps are not meant to replace CS degree programs, and they teach different, but overlapping things. I think the degree to which you would find one useful really depends on what you were struggling with in your Android development job and why. Big Data, scaling, optimizing: these are generally not the kinds of skills you learn at bootcamp. TDD, version control (git), the basics of object oriented development - that they can help you with. Do you definitely want to stick with Android? I might actually recommend that you go to a bootcamp that teaches a different framework/language - you'll be able to apply the skills you learn back to Android development.

Also, I think one of the best things my bootcamp did for me was helping me identify employers than were willing and able to support new developers with limited experience. Do you need to go to bootcamp or would it be possible for you to do a three-month internship or contract position at a place that really wants you to succeed? If you can figure out who's hiring from bootcamps you might actually be able to get a job there without going to bootcamp (if you follow me).

Finally, what have you been doing since you lost the developer job? Have you been working to learn more (doing online tutorials, reading, taking edX and Coursera courses)? If not, why not? Pretty much anything you can learn at bootcamp you can learn on your own (though a supportive mentor will make it a lot easier, whether they're a bootcamp instructor, a boss/colleague, or just a friend who's willing to work with you). If you don't have to drive to do it on your own now, will the bootcamp make the difference (it might! but it's not automatic).
posted by mskyle at 10:14 AM on February 21, 2014

A bootcamp is not a substitute for a CS degree.

A bootcamp *might* give you some skills you need and access to mentors and contacts who can help you to develop as a programmer & show you where to find out more about the holes in your knowledge. On the other hand a crappy bootcamp will take your money and leave you with very little.

Looking at the syllabus for the bootcamp you mention, it seems very focused on a particular set of Android-related development technologies. If those are things you feel you need to know about, then that's great. However, this course is not going to fill in the holes in your background programming knowledge. Also, I'm personally biased against course websites with spelling mistakes on them. If they can't be bothered to proofreed their own website, how much do they care about the rest of the course?
posted by pharm at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2014

@mskyle, @pharm,

Thanks for your replies. I am not looking for a CS degree in a can - I do not perceive a bootcamp as having that functionality. I am precisely weak in TDD and OOP in terms of patterns (I kinda know what they are, but yeah). I can and do work with git, but I could be stronger there.

Yes, I really enjoy Android and I want to continue on as a developer for it.

I have been working with online tutorials and my own projects since I lost my job, and I've been going to meetups and I'll be participating in a code-jam tomorrow. I know that I will have to continue learning new things as a developer as long as I want to wear that hat. What I am looking for out of a bootcamp are pretty much the things mskyle described. I am going to continue to look into and evaluate this. I'll try to get in touch with someone that has been through this particular camp towards that.

My thanks again, and please, I'd be grateful to hear from more folks that have had experience here!
posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas at 10:59 AM on February 21, 2014

One other thing - bootcamps are absolutely the Wild West, regulation wise. I haven't seen/heard about any really terrible or exploitative ones, but there are *no* protections in place to stop such programs from springing up. Since you're involved in meetups in your area ask around, see if the guys running the bootcamp are well-respected, that kind of thing. Also be aware of the job market in your area; if you were able to get a position as a self-taught Android developer before, that's probably a good sign, but the market for junior developers varies a lot.
posted by mskyle at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2014

Yeah, there is a reason why the state of California is clamping down on a lot of these bootcamps - some of them promise the moon and deliver next to nothing from what I've read.

ViceAdmiral: Local word of mouth might be a better route to discovering good bootcamp-style programs. I'd also try asking on the relevant programming reddits or hackernews.
posted by pharm at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2014

When you talk with someone who's been through the bootcamp, talk with someone who's no longer affiliated with the camp, not the "model student" that the camp will likely refer you to.

I know two folks who've done similar camps; one had a wonderful experience (this was a few years ago before they got big) and was launched into a lucrative tech career, one couldn't find a job afterward because no one was looking for junior programmers, and felt it was a waste of money with nothing to show for it. Agreed that tech bootcamps are springing up everywhere and offering to make all of your dreams come true, but if you don't prosper afterward there is no negative consequence for the school.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:50 PM on February 21, 2014

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