Is a Coding Boot Camp for Me?
So you’ve heard of coding boot camps and you are wondering what they’re all about, if they really work or if they’re for you? Perhaps you’ve signed up for one and are counting down the days until you start and want to know how to make the most of your time before, during and after the course.
In this 3 part Coding Boot Camp series I will try and help answer some questions you may have. I was part of the first cohort of London’s Makers Academy in 2013 and I’m now a working web developer. I’ve been there, had lots of questions and lived through the madness. There are a few things you can do to make the most of your time (and money) spent on your coding boot camp.
Can I code?
So you are wondering if you would even be any good at coding. There are a few things that will signal this is a good path for you.
1. Are you a logical thinker? Take the this simple test:
a = 10, b = 20, a = b
What is the value of a?” (Answer at the bottom of the post).
2. Entrance Criteria – Depending on the boot camp there could be a screening process to check for ways of thinking which are consistently shown in good developers.
3. Do you have an interest in tech?
4. Are you good with detail and like to ask lots of question?
A misconception I had for many years was that coding was about staring at a screen full of text and numbers for hours on end and doing loads of complex math equations. When in fact it is much more creative than I imagined and for most developer roles basic math will be all you need most of the time. As a developer you will be problem solving with code trying to find the best solution to a problem. If you work on front end code it is also very visually creative.
How to Choose a Coding Boot Camp
As more coding boot camps start up you will need to decide which one is the right one for you. There are some things you can ask and do to help decide.Read More
So it’s been quiet around here. I’ve been busy learning more about code, networking the tech industry in London, coaching future girl Rubiests and job/internship hunting to get my foot in the door as a developer. In among all that I also visited my sister in Poland where she is based this year on her sabbatical and played tour guide when she came to London for a visit.
The good news is I have found a 3 month paid internship with a company called Enternships. It’s great to put my skills to the test in the real world and I look forward to contributing to their code base. Hopefully working here will be a good change from the media and travel industries. There is a focus here which I can relate to which is helping people gain experience and open them up to job opportunities other than the obvious choices that one is so exposed to especially grads at career fairs and such.
The journey here was an interesting one in which I tried my best to listen to my gut and keeping my focus on my personal goals and values in order not to end up in a situation like my last job where the fit was so bad I was miserable. With London being as expensive as it is it was stressful at times not knowing how long it would take to find an opportunity but I seem to have ended up in a good place. Enternships is just a small team (less than 20 people) which hopefully means I will get the chance to work on lots of different aspects of their code and learn loads. I’m working as part of the development team (a team of 4) focusing on backend development To you non-techies that means the guts that you don’t see running a web site vs the front end which is the stuff you see when interacting with the page.
My first task was to help improve the redirects from links from the old site to the new one to cut the number of 404 errors. I managed to do this more easily than expect which was a nice confidence boost. My next task is a bigger piece of code that I am picking up from the last intern. This is a challenge in itself as the code is almost done and I am getting my head wrapped around it, as well as figuring out what is left to do.
All in all it is good to be back in the working world, life feels less aimless and move focused. As well I’m moving forward and gaining valuable experience.Read More
So things have been quiet here. The 10 weeks at Makers Academy spent learning code was pretty intense and left my brain with little ability to write coherent English. People have been very curious about my experience so I thought I would write a post reflecting back my 10 weeks at Makers Academy and I have some questions asked by Jean in a comment on a earlier post.
First of all can you learn to code in 10 weeks? It can be done. Unlike some others in my cohort I had no previous computer programming background except some self taught HTML (in 2000) and my interest and dabbling with computers. Now I can not only write code (in Ruby) I know how to work with version control (using Git), work with frameworks (such as Rails and Sinatra), deploy to Heroku, work with external API’s and relational databases. What does all of that mean? It means I can create a web application. Most importantly I know when I get stuck how to get unstuck and move forward.
1) Would you do it again?
Absolutely! It was 10 weeks of hard work but I enjoyed almost every moment of it. It was engaging, challenging and interesting.
2) Were there any downsides/negatives to the course?
For me the only negative was that I was in the first cohort and as expected there were some kinks to iron out and a learning curve for the instructors. At times I was left feeling more self-directed than I would have liked, having to decide what to focus on when choosing a project, which I found to be a tough choice being that everything was new to me. I knew that I was in the first group, when signing up and so it was expected, as well it was interesting to see a lean startup in action.
Those joining the course will benefit from the learning curve gained with the first cohort. Improvements are still being made with each cohort (keeping the feedback loop short and learning from each, you can read more about it on the Makers Academy Blog)
3) Could you have learned the same material on your own?
I believe I could have learned with the various online tutorials, blog posts, screencasts etc. however it would have taken me a lot longer to learn what I learned in 10 weeks at Makers had I tried to learn it on my own. I suspect if I tried to learn on my own part time while working full-time it would have taken at least 18 months (probably more) to get where I am now and it would have been a much more frustrating experience which could have been off-putting.
Taking 10 weeks to truly focus on something makes a big difference to one’s learning curve. I found this out when I was 19 and spent 5 weeks one summer in a French immersion program. I learnt more during those 5 weeks than 10 years in the classroom. I was surrounded by French 24/7 in practical situations (like if I wanted the ketchup I had better figure out how to ask for it!) and some classroom instruction (all in French of course).
Makers Academy was very similar to this. We learned to code by spending as much time as possible working with code. We pair-programmed and worked on group projects to gain as much practical experience in different aspects of life as a developer as possible. The instructors made sure to leave us to figure things out and get unstuck ourselves only stepping in to guide us when asked. There were lectures mixed in to build up our understanding of topics and table tennis to teach us to take breaks to help think more clearly (I’m still terrible at both TT and taking breaks).
4) What happened after graduation? Did you go into Makers hoping to get a job with one of their hiring partners, and were there quite a few recruiters at graduation/hiring day?
Unfortunately I was not there the last day, I had a wedding in Ireland to attend. Irish weddings == a great party, which after 10 weeks of intense study was just what I needed. I understand there were a number of the hiring partners there that day. Also during the course the hiring partners stopped in on occasion to pair with us, sit in on a lecture and speak to us themselves. I met with one of the partners during the course, but unfortunately they were looking for a front-end dev and at this time I would like a back-end role with the intent to build up to full-stack over time.
For me this is a career change . Taking an area of my life that has always been an interest and hobby of sorts and taking it to the next level, making a career of it. I’m certain I am on the right path after many years of looking for a challenging career that I could really enjoy and grow with. Being a developer will be an ongoing learning experience and with the changes in technology it will be certain to get even more interesting. So the experience isn’t over until I secure my first real life position as a developer. In the meantime I continue to practice coding and learn as much as I can while also getting out to meet those in the London tech community. I will be sure to update you on the next stage of my new career.Read More