really considering a coding bootcamp- looking for insights
September 18, 2018 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I am aware of the downsides already and think the positives outweigh them

I currently work in a web platform company in a tech support role. I love the company and I love the parts of my job that involve website design and development. I want to become a website developer.

Of course I could spend all my evenings and weekends coding and teach myself while working a fulltime job, if i had the motivation, energy and stomach for that. But I definitely don't. I need to be in a classroom environment with peers and teachers and class discussions and community.

So there's this 9 week program that costs $8000 canadian that I could afford to do starting in January, and I really want to do it because I'm tired of my career going nowhere. I've been making the same salary since 2012 and I want to jumpstart my career ASAP so that I can move on with my future goals.

Any front end developers out there who could take a look at the syllabusand tell me what you think?

I know these programs are hated by some people because they are expensive or whatever. Just think of it as a given that I have the cash for it and that it means a lot to me so I'm willing to spend my cash on it.
posted by winterportage to Education (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Developers are in short supply. Before leaving your job and spending the money to do this, I'd have a frank discussion with your manager about how you'd like to do this eventually (without specifying timeframe) and asking if the company can provide any support for that, whether it's paying you to do something like this or paying for a different sort of program.

8 weeks seems rushed. My program was 12, and was still rushed, especially for people who didn't have prior coding experience. I know they can't guarantee employment, but the fact that I'm not seeing employment rate published there and the fact that they're a chain worries me a little--my school eventually shut down due to trouble with placing people, and that was with networking on the part of the school going a long way towards getting us the jobs we did get.

I did a boot camp and I am doing quite well on the basis of having done a boot camp, so it's totally possible, but I would generally recommend to anybody considering leaving a job to do this sort of thing that you spend a couple months' worth of 7-8 hours a week--so maybe an hour a day or maybe 4 hours a day on Saturday/Sunday--seeing where you can get on your own and how you feel about it at the end of that. Classrooms have a lot of advantages, but you don't keep the classroom available after you graduate, and you really have to be able to learn things outside of that environment to be able to manage this sort of work. And very few places right now are great about training junior people, so... it's best to go in with the expectation that at least this much additional workload is going to be your new normal. I was probably more like 2 hours a night for my first year, and I still spend a lot of outside-of-work time on it.

You don't need to do everything alone; I'd just suggest getting far enough that you can see you're making noticeable progress and you still don't hate it, rather than figuring that out 7 weeks in.
posted by Sequence at 10:13 AM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm questioning the Front-End portion of the syllabus. I'm shocked they aren't even touching on any of React, Vue, or Angular. As a back-end dev who gets pushed into full stack jobs on occasion, I have every reason to suspect someone with good general computer skills could get a junior front-end dev job by knowing the Angular Tour of Heroes tutorial inside and out. Bootstrap and DOM manipulation is good, but I don't see job listings asking for those skills on their own, you know? On the other hand I see a lot of jobs that are headlined as "Wanted: React Developer" or "Angular 2+ Developer"

I guess that'd be another tip - what are the jobs you'd like to get asking for? This camp focuses a lot on Ruby and Ruby on Rails. While those are absolutely valid skills to learn, I don't think I'd be able to get a job in my city if that was my skillset. What are employers asking for in your city? Take a look at Stack Overflow Jobs, for example, and see what local jobs are looking for (hilariously, the current sponsored listing I see is a remote ruby on rails job. Again, valid skills, just not what people in my city need). Are they asking for certain frameworks? Do they all ask for knowledge of git or other version control systems? Make sure whatever you learn fits the job market.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:25 AM on September 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I just wanted to add that I have had a short messaging conversation with an HR person, and he said they don't offer unpaid leave, so I would have to resign and reapply, but that they would fast track the hiring process (presumably I would be going back into my current role but could later apply for better jobs). My current position gets me access to a monthly Professional Development budget, but only towards things that improve my work in my current role. My company used to be known for moving tech support people up into other roles but lately the word is that they're not doing that anymore so I really feel I'd need to take a step back and get new skills if I want to move up in my company. Basically what I *think* I want to do is to be able to design and develop websites.
posted by winterportage at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2018

I'm shocked they aren't even touching on any of React, Vue, or Angular.

I'm not shocked by this, and I probably should have added something on that score: There is no possible way in a program of this length to actually teach you enough full-stack to actually be able to do more than scaffolding in Rails AND make it far enough in JavaScript to make those things viable. Rails bootcamps can totally lead to jobs doing something other than Rails--I don't do Rails, myself--on the back end, because junior-level knowledge of most back-end frameworks is pretty transferrable to understanding other back-end frameworks, so this is pretty standard, but modern front-end development is getting increasingly complicated, and I just don't think they're leaving enough time to actually cover that. I've been doing Vue for a year now and I still struggle with it pretty regularly. Any job that cares that you actually know React/Vue/Angular and isn't willing to give you the time to train on that is not going to be substantially happier that you spent all of a week covering it in class.

On the one hand, places that are comfortable hiring juniors, that might be fine? But on the other hand, you need to have realistic expectations about what you're going to finish with, and that isn't actually much, and potentially less here than with a longer program.
posted by Sequence at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

On preview:

with an HR person

A good rule of working life is that HR is not your friend. HR exists to protect the company and for no other purpose.

Get in front of the people who manage developers. Those people are (probably) looking for more developers. Those people can tell you exactly which skills you need to learn. Those people may even be able to get you moved over to their team to learn AT WORK. The people who hire and manage technical people in your organization can also give you feedback about the program you are considering. Each workspace has different needs. They may be desperate enough for engineers that they can find funding to get you better classes relevant to what they need.

HR cannot be counted on to help you solve any of these problems. HR wants to keep you in your current role only as long as it is easy and profitable for the company. Not to be alarmist, but this HR person may be quietly adding you to a list of people they consider "halfway out the door."

I love the parts of my job that involve website design and development.

Your current role involves website design and development. You are totally qualified to get professional development funds to improve your skills in those areas. Will the company give them? Maybe not. But they should. Investing in you is cheaper than replacing you. And giving you the skills to move up within the company is MUCH cheaper than finding someone else who already has those new skills. But companies aren't always smart about this. Whatever you do, be very careful about asking your current boss for guidance. Your current boss is very motivated to keep your role filled, no matter what it costs you. If you get promoted, the other department gains, and your boss has to spend the time and money to hire and train a new you.

All of that said, 8k for no job guarantee is too much, especially because as others have said, 8 weeks is not long enough, and the curriculum is not great.

If you wanted my advice about a path, the first thing I would do is start attending all the meetups that are even remotely relevant to things you're interested in. Get business cards, make linkedin connections, send follow up messages with thoughtful and well researched questions. If there are no meetups, listen to podcasts on your commute and watch youtube videos and tutorials on your lunch break.

I'm a career changer into tech, feel free to send me a memail if you want to talk more in depth about this.
posted by bilabial at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Have you considered Recurse Center ( in NYC? 12weeks, working on what you want to, surrounded by a community to offer advice, and with job search help.

It’s more self directed than what you’re looking at, but does provide a lot more structure than being at home. There’s no tuition, and some scholarships for living expenses in NYC.
posted by triscuit at 11:10 AM on September 18, 2018

Have you considered Recurse Center ( in NYC? 12weeks, working on what you want to, surrounded by a community to offer advice, and with job search help.

I don't get the impression that Recurse is a good fit for this. They are super awesome, but they tend to cater to sabbaticals for people with some programming experience.
posted by ripley_ at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

The people I know who have gotten into Recurse have been skilled senior software engineers looking to keep growing and step up their games, not people coming out of support. It's an amazing place and thoroughly out of my league.

I recently did a bootcamp and had an okay experience, but am now struggling to find a role. The bootcamp I went to suggested that almost everyone who graduates finds a role within six months. Really consider whether you have the savings to work on getting a junior role for weeks on end - that's arguably more isolating and challenging than the coursework itself.
posted by bagel at 11:25 AM on September 18, 2018

I'm not shocked by this, and I probably should have added something on that score: There is no possible way in a program of this length to actually teach you enough full-stack to actually be able to do more than scaffolding in Rails AND make it far enough in JavaScript to make those things viable.

That's a good point and I think is what my shock is about: the course seems just short. As a data point, the big camp local to me is 12 weeks, but also only covers JS directly. No frameworks. (which is interesting to me, but I suppose I haven't ever tried to teach anyone a JS framework from scratch)

bilabial some great thoughts, especially about how to be effectively attending meetups. Follow their advice!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:25 AM on September 18, 2018

What programming experience do you have already? If doing this requires resigning and you don't have much programming experience under your belt, I'd highly recommend grabbing a good book or two and working through them to see how you do. If you do well, it'll make the boot camp easier.

Does your company use Boostrap and Rails? Even with a fast track from HR, I wouldn't touch someone that went through a boot camp in the wrong platforms.
posted by Candleman at 11:30 AM on September 18, 2018

Response by poster: Re: attending meetups and whatnot - what's the goal in that sense?
I already work in the same company I want to stay working in - it's like the best company I would ever want to work for. I just want a faster path to leveling up.
posted by winterportage at 12:19 PM on September 18, 2018

Have you looked at freecodecamp? Don't quit your day job (you may not get back in, etc.), work through the program and then network inside your company!?
posted by littleredwagon at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2018

I already work in the same company I want to stay working in - it's like the best company I would ever want to work for.

Unless they will guarantee you re-employment, which they've refused to do, I would not quit this job, then, to do this. There are other ways to do what you need to do, even if they're less convenient. Otherwise, you need to go into this with the idea that you HOPE to get a job with this company but the day you leave, you no longer work there and you are hunting for a job, not that job. You have to be prepared for that hustle as well as some period of unemployment after the end of the program.

If your company is junior-friendly enough for you to have an actual shot of getting work there without doing work elsewhere, then they should be friendly enough to be supportive of you learning and making this transition. I'd advise asking around, not HR, but trying to find actual developers to talk to. If you have a hard time making these connections and getting this kind of support... I would not count on this place being junior-friendly enough for this to be a viable plan. Which doesn't mean you can't become a web developer! You just might not be able to make that transition and stay at your current employer, and any viable route for this may still require a lot of effort on nights/weekends.
posted by Sequence at 3:04 PM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess I already kind of screwed up in asking HR whether they let us take leaves for courses like this and whether the company can sponsor it eh? But yeah I'm probably better feeling around and doing what I'm doing (I already study on Codecademy every week) and attend meetups and the like. I was just looking for a more streamlined and faster path but seems like that doesn't really exist. Thank you very much for the insights!
posted by winterportage at 3:21 PM on September 18, 2018

meetups are often problem focused. Which means a presenter gets in front of the group and describes an issue they had, and then walks the group through the steps they used to (try to) solve the problem.

The audience asks questions, makes suggestions. Before and after meetups, there is a social time. Usually free food and drinks (usually there's a non-alcoholic option, at the meetups I organize there is no alcohol, organizers vary). The before and after is really the meat of the event, in my opinion. You get to chat with people and hear how they got into tech, what they want to be working on, what they miss working on, what they're struggling with. People talk about what platforms they're using, what skills they're picking up, and what skills they'll need a new dev to have when they're ready to hire. Meetups are a potential place for the

People come to meetups to openly recruit employees! People at meetups will tell you about their bootcamp experience, what did they like, what did they wish had been different. I went to a meetup that was literally a panel of female career changers and some said bootcamps are great and some said bootcamps are sometimes great. Some meetups post videos online of the talk portion of their events, but for obvious reasons not the social portions.

When job searching, it's not the power of your close network that usually gets you success, but the depth and breadth of your larger network. Who is connected to someone who can help you/that you can help.

I get what you're saying about loving your company, but they are NOT showing you that same level of loyalty. I get that it's worse in the US than it is in Canada, but employers have all kinds of reasons come up to terminate employees. There is very little motivation for an employer to be loyal to or even helpful to you, even when it harms an employer to lose you.

Find a way to get to chat with the folks who manage the technical team(s) that you want to join. Have some work you can show them (you've been working on web design, make a portfolio, have a link to it, be careful that it's not something you're forbidden from sharing.) As someone else said above, also talk to some folks on those teams and see what experience they had coming in, how it helped them and where they wish they had been better prepared for the roles they have now.
posted by bilabial at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are also some online programs like Launch School which offer something in between "full time bootcamp" and "teach yourself to program" -- there's some community/instructor support. I haven't used that program but have heard some positive things and it looks like they have a free starter class.
posted by oranger at 7:26 AM on September 19, 2018

I'm about to finish a batch at Recurse Center, and was beginner-ish at programming coming into this. My background was in data analysis, but I had virtually no tech or web experience. I can't believe how much I've learned during my 12 weeks, but it is definitely self-directed, and can take a bit of time to get comfortable asking people questions and working with others. You also do need to know some programming to get in (I built a simple tic-tac-toe game in Python as a demonstration of my abilities). If you are part of a demographic that's underrepresented in programming, you could qualify for a substantial scholarship to subsidize the cost of living in NYC,

Most people during my batch were more advanced in programming knowledge than I was, but I saw that as a benefit rather than a drawback. I figured that at a bootcamp I'd have the same or a bit more knowledge than most people coming in, whereas here I knew a lot less than people who are really generous with their time and knowledge (for web development, as well as for navigating the tech job scene). I don't have a guaranteed job afterward, and wouldn't from a bootcamp either. But the people I've met and the network that I'm now part of are pretty amazing. Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions.
posted by taltalim at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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