The next step after attending a Code School Bootcamp is finding a job. As someone that's been in the industry for a while I often get asked for pointers, tips, and just general ideas for starting a career in programming. These are my thoughts and four key pieces of advice on about how to get started.
First, the bad news. Immersive bootcamps and code schools do not make one an employable programmer. Twelve weeks is barely enough time to learn what a programming language is and how it works, much less learn three or four to any real level of competency. Sure you can toss up a Rails+Angular app on Heroku that does something, but in the "real world" software and deployments are much more complicated and a code school graduate will not be able to cope. The reality is that the CS degree from Georgia Tech, who has spent 4 years learning about data-structures, computer design, etc, is going to be a better junior software engineer candidate.
No matter the hype and PR, immersive bootcamps and code schools do not make one an employable programmer.
The flip side is that attending a code school also doesn't make you not employable as a programmer. I've met some really good programers that have gone through code schools and what they share is a focus on learning both before and after the program. Which brings me to the first, and most important, piece of advice if you really want a career in software development, decide if you really want to be a programmer. Programming is just one of the many jobs that goes into building software and coming in from a non-traditional background puts you behind the line at the start. You will be spending the first part of your career playing catchup, but liking what you do will make that process so much easier. You don't even have to like programming to be successful at it, you just have to like learning.
The second piece of advice is don't get disheartened early on. I went the traditional route, even got a Master's degree in CS. The only reason I got my first job was because 2 guys didn't show up on the first day and the third guy quit in the first week. I was number four on the list. So maybe that GT kid has a head start, but what really matters is what happens during the race. The programming workforce is littered with very talented people who found their way into the field. Not only is it possible, it's pretty common.
The programming workforce is littered with very talented people who found their way into the field. Not only is it possible, it's actually pretty common.
Related, when making a career change, especially to an in-depth field like software, finding the right job is 10x more important than finding any job. Be humble and seek out a team and manager that will facilitate your learning and be a spring board for your career instead of a roadblock. It might be less money initially, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Writing good software is hard in ways that one can't imagine when starting to program. A good mentor is crucial to becoming a great engineer.
My final big piece of advice is to play up the unique value that you bring to the team. It takes courage and commitment to change course in adulthood. These are wonderful qualities to have on a team. Software is not built in a vacuum either, your past life is probably relevant to something in your new career. Perhaps you worked on a side project that included a technology the team needs, but does not have experience in. The biggest advantage you have is your individual life experience. From the employer's perspective, taking on a code school bootcamp graduate is a large risk and commitment. Give them a reason to invest and believe in you.
Writing good software is Hard in ways that one can't imagine when starting to program. A good mentor is crucial to becoming a great engineer.
The bottom line is that programming is still a growing field with a lot of opportunity. If you've just started, but are on the internet reading blogs, you're already on your way. There is no one true path to becoming a good programmer. It's not about the code school or the credentials, but the work you are willing to put in and the desire to learn.
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