30 Days In: My Perspective on Coding Bootcamps

And whether it may be right for you

When I decided to learn programming 3 years ago, I was astonished at the number of resources available online. Mobile development, data science, or any other specialty, a quick google search revealed hundreds of tutorials, videos, and courses. So, I thought, why are people paying tens of thousands to attend 3-month bootcamps? Here I am, 3 years later, and currently enrolled in one myself…

When I tried learning to program the first time, I was working full time. My job was stressful and some days I just couldn’t bring myself to spend hours studying each evening. But, each day I missed the routine, the harder it was to get back into it. And soon, I just gave up. Even with all the amazing resources online, you won’t succeed in learning on your own without the added ingredient of self-motivation.

Person ticking off checkboxes

In my bootcamp, we have to submit a project every day. With 100+ people in my cohort, instructors don’t lay eyes on every project every day. However, they do make sure it was submitted. I learned this through firsthand experience when recently, I forgot to submit one of my projects. I don’t know why I forgot. The project was complete and the pull was requested on Github. But honestly, I never thought anyone would pay attention anyway. So, I was shocked to receive the following message from my Student Success Coordinator at 1:54 am that night.

Yes, 2 am… When the project was due at 11:59 pm.

Hi, Leah. Our records show that you are missing your module project 2 and/or quizzes. Please submit them as soon as you can in addition to Monday’s project, survey, and quiz (if applicable). I will be checking this morning and if the projects are not submitted we will be reaching out again to schedule a check-in meeting to talk about your academic standing. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.

I explained what happened, and everything was fine! But it made me realize that they are paying more attention than I previously thought. And, if I were struggling to stay on track, that message might be the extra motivation I needed to kick my butt into gear and get coding.

As I mentioned before, there are thousands of articles, videos, and courses online. For the aspiring programmer, the sheer quantity of choices can result in a sort of “analysis paralysis.” You click on a YouTube video about the topic you want to learn… Is this person qualified? Are they up-to-date on the latest best practices? There’s simply no way to know for sure! And when different resources conflict with one another, it can feel rather hopeless.

If you attend a bootcamp or other programming course, you can rest easy knowing that the curriculum has been developed by experienced professionals. There are teams of people whose only job is to ensure that you are learning the most useful and up-to-date information!

One great feature my school offers is videos of past lectures. In addition to the live instruction you receive daily, you can see the same curriculum taught by another teacher. Sometimes there are vast differences in how the instructors present the material. If you don’t have confidence in the material after your lesson, watching these videos can really make a difference in your comprehension! It helps to know what type of learner you are (find out your learning style).

Though I’m not looking for jobs yet, my bootcamp is already preparing me for the job search. The career advisors have helped me set up my social media accounts, build my resume, and practice with mock interviews. Once I begin applying to companies, the school has partnerships with several tech companies that loving hiring our graduates. It won’t get you a job, but it will definitely help. It’s difficult to compete with other candidates who come from a traditional computer science background, so I will take any edge I can get!

Bootcamps are intense! They compact the equivalent of a four-year degree into 3–6 months. Because of the quick pace, it isn’t possible to succeed without significant time and effort. For many students, including me, that meant quitting our jobs to focus 100% on learning to code. Zero distractions!

Beyond the lack of income and opportunity cost, the other element to consider is the cost of the program itself. Some programs charge up to $30,000, which is no small fee. When you are paying $258 per day for your education, you’ll want to ensure you are getting the most value possible!

So, am I happy with my Bootcamp so far?

The simple answer: Yes, I am. By the end of the first month, I’m proficient in HTML, CSS, and the fundamentals of JavaScript. I can build a beautiful website and work through some logic problems that would have been gibberish to me a month ago! I’ve loved the challenge, and it’s exciting when I can do something new. I can’t wait to get up each morning and learn more.

Not everyone has had a good experience… 25% of the students in my cohort have already dropped out. For those students, a more traditional four-year degree or learning on their own might be a better option.

For me, attending a bootcamp is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. How about you? Are you a bootcamp student? I’d love to hear your story — reach out in the comments below!

Web developer. Dog mom. Philanthropist. @LeahCodes on twitter