Former CS major thinking of getting back into tech?
June 7, 2019 8:50 PM   Subscribe

I graduated five years ago with a BA in Computer Science from a fairly reputable school. Since then I haven't used my degree much--possibly (probably) due to a lot of difficulty I had at the end of the program, what with severe imposter's syndrome and some other personal/health issues--but I'd like to start. What's the best way to go about this?

I've held various non-technical positions (mostly part-time, also for personal/health reasons) but my most recent foray into job hunting and subsequent lack of success has me discouraged and wondering if I should try to make use of my degree. I figure (hope) tech is solid / in demand / well-paying (correct me if I'm wrong).

Somewhat on a whim I applied to a coding bootcamp and got in (MeMail me for the name; not sure if I should share it here). But the closer the deadline for accepting approaches the more I'm filled with doubt. For example:

- The program is ostensibly for people with little-to-no programming experience. What if it's too easy?

- According to former fellows the program is incredibly challenging. What if it's too hard?

- Quick googling reveals that the program has significantly more negative than positive reviews. Surely this is a red flag?

- The part where I can't tell whether I'm being overly picky and petulant: they're only teaching iOS development at the moment and I don't really want to be an iOS programmer--I don't even own any Apple products. (But I've been assured that (1) Macbooks will be provided and (2) alumni can and have gone on to do other things.)

I could probably come up with more cons but let's just leave it at that for now.

Assuming my instincts are on point and I should dive back into tech (nb: open to other solutions) what are my options? Attend this bootcamp? Choose a more reputable one? Go back to school? Or maybe self-study is the way to go? Or something else I haven't thought of...?

Thoughts on the utility of bootcamps and any alternatives would be greatly appreciated!

Other info: when it comes to tech I lean towards web development, databases, and QA. I'm in my late twenties and based in NYC. I have savings and a supportive family so I'm not worried about being unemployed (except for the fact that it's kinda messing with my head) but something cost-intensive like going back to school would probably be difficult.
posted by junques to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you're in NYC, you'd have little reason to settle for this: you have close to a three-digit number of alternative places to learn, most of which would be better suited to your situation. Here's a list of 14 to start you off:
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:51 PM on June 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Look into a professional certificate program affiliated with an accredited university. For example, here are the tech-related certificates offered by Chicago's DePaul University Institute for Professional Development. (Note that there are online options available.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:00 AM on June 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with StriketheViol that a bootcamp is a reasonable plan, but there's no reason to pick one that doesn't align with your interests.

I think a good bootcamp would actually be a good complement to your BA program. It will be strong on craft on practical details, and light on theory. Writing software in practice is very different from what you do in most undergrad programs. A good program will also let you develop a portfolio of one or more projects that you can reference when applying to jobs. With a CS background, the specifics of the technologies should still be new to you, but you'll be able to pick some a more ambitious project.

My wife took a few CS classes before doing a bootcamp and becoming a Ruby on Rails programmer, and that worked out pretty well for her.
posted by serathen at 6:14 AM on June 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd say you should just teach yourself and save yourself the bootcamp tuition, unless you're super averse to the idea. I'm purely self-taught -- I have a humanities degree -- and I've been working as a software engineer for the past 5 years, and just recently got hired by one of the big companies.

If you have a CS degree from a reputable school, you should be able to get some interviews. Having a portfolio with some small projects would help, too. From there you just need to be able to pass the tech interviews, and there are lots of resources online for studying that stuff.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:59 PM on June 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm no longer a programmer (sorry, "software engineer") but was for 40+ years from a self-taught start. After being retired for a few years I've been mulling getting some work again and think the best way is probably to do a bit of coding on something I'd find fun, storing it on github because it's not just about coding but also about the constellation of accompanying skills, and using that as a illustration of current ability.

That would likely be your best approach too, in my opinion, and depending on where your coding skills lie a bootcamp might be a help in re-enlivening the coding skills you had when taking your degree. Just not a bootcamp that you feel uncomfortable abou, and not necessary at all if you can still hack a program together. You're probably much better positioned for getting employed than I am, as you have the degree and are probably not so long in the tooth. Good luck.
posted by anadem at 9:19 PM on June 8, 2019

As someone who hires and works side-by-side with a good number of junior developers, my experience has been that boot camps are great, and can be really beneficial for people who are doing career transition. If you have a CS degree, but not much practical experience, a boot camp would be a great way back into the field.

As others said, choose the program that's right for you. The way I'm reading what you wrote is that you're considering the iOS one because you were accepted. Hope that's not the case.
posted by Ickster at 8:09 PM on June 9, 2019

It seems like this bootcamp might not be for you. Rather than an all-or-nothing attitude, maybe ask if you can defer admission until the next cohort, and use the time to research other options and/or apply to others that might be a better fit? Rather than seeing rejection as a failure, maybe try to see it as a requirement to figure out what your range of available options are?

I'm biased since I'm an alum, but if you enjoy programming and can handle being self-directed, I'd look into the Recurse Center. In many ways it is the opposite of a boot camp -- it's free (with some grants available!), and the founders are unschoolers and don't believe in setting a curriculum. This type of thing is definitely not for everybody -- the self directed nature of it can be intimidating, and you have to trust yourself to choose what to work on. I attended 5 years ago, and am still an active member of the community; it's a great resource both for friendships and for technical career advice. If you want to chat more about it, please feel free to PM me!
posted by Metasyntactic at 8:21 PM on June 9, 2019

Response by poster: So I decided to give my spot to someone else. A bootcamp might be a good idea but this particular one just didn't seem like the right fit. Honestly I'm pretty sure at least half my motivation for applying was to find something to do since the job hunt isn't going well and I'm going stir-crazy. Probably not the greatest frame of mind for starting something like this.

Since I have so much free time on my hands I will certainly look into alternatives, particularly self-teaching. In the past I haven't been very good at finding self-motivation / self-direction but maybe things will be different this time around.

Thanks for all the great responses!
posted by junques at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2019

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