Considering a coding bootcamp or already enrolled in one? Here are some things I wish I had considered or read before starting my bootcamp journey.
It’s in your best interest to thoroughly vet bootcamps, attend one where you want to work, network during the bootcamp, not graduate in late spring or early summer, plan for a long unemployment, and decide if you’re willing to move.
I am originally from Spokane, Washington, and I believe there was only one part-time coding bootcamp in my city when I started looking for bootcamps. I chose The Flatiron School’s Brooklyn, New York, campus because they allow low-income students to pay after they get a job. Flatiron and web development were great decisions, but I didn’t want to work in New York afterward, and that was my first mistake.
Flatiron assured me that they had placed people in Fargo, North Dakota and Berlin, Germany, and I also found a job. However, I see many benefits to attending a bootcamp in the same city where you want to work. If you already live in a city with bootcamps and you want to remain in that city, you can attend events for different bootcamps to help vet them and meet current students or recent grads before you decide which to attend. Regardless, attending networking events during your bootcamp will give you a large network when you finish. Even going to class counts as networking because most of those people will eventually be tech professionals. Unfortunately, I moved away from my awesome cohort.
Speaking of networking, do it! Start networking now, wherever you are in the journey. I have met people at networking events who are just thinking about applying to coding bootcamps, and I have worked with people who got into tech without spending the roughly $20,000 needed to attend a bootcamp.
I suspect networking during your bootcamp would help you get hired sooner after (or even before) you graduate. Even if it doesn’t, go get some networking practice.
Lastly, think about how much you like or can endure networking. Networking is not my cup of tea, and it seems my classmates who were good at networking found jobs more quickly.
After I had graduated from my bootcamp, a mentor told me that I had graduated at the worst time — at the beginning of college summer internships.
“Why would companies hire an inexperienced person at full price when they can get them for free?” he said.
This made sense, because it seemed like most of my classmates got job offers at the end of summer internships starting in late August, and I do know some people who graduated around that time who found jobs quickly.
If you can control it, I would think about the time that you would finish your bootcamp. Looking back, I would have postponed enrolling at Flatiron if I weren’t so desperate to change careers.
One of the reasons I picked Flatiron is because they have such thorough reporting of their own outcomes, like average student income in their first year, the types of jobs they got, and how long it took them to land a job. As far as Flatiron is concerned, I landed a job about two-and-a-half months into my search, which means around 2/3 of students got jobs in less time and 1/3 had to look longer.
I don’t look at it like that, and it didn’t feel like 2 months at the time. I chose not to start Flatiron’s career services during “module 5” because I wanted to focus on my personal project. Because of this, I started the work after graduating, which pushed back my official job search start date to a month after graduation. While you can apply to jobs whenever you want, you can attend Flatiron recruiting events and get Flatiron job search emails once you declare your official job search.
Career services feel essential to me, because I only got traction with companies through Flatiron. The only thing I would ask Flatiron to improve for future cohorts is to beef up their search of jobs for their students, because it was my only lifeline. I was approached by more companies around the time I got offered a job at Accenture, so this could have also been the timing I was discussing above.
I was ecstatic (and still am) that I got offered a job with Accenture through their apprenticeship program (intrepid.io/careers! Intrepid was doing this before they got acquired by Accenture), but I still had to wait almost a month to start my job, and then I had to wait a few more weeks to get paid. In all, I didn’t get paid for being a developer for almost 5 months after graduation, though I was hired in about 2.5 months, statistically.
Don’t think that your skills will dictate your length of unemployment, either. I was part of the quarter of my classmates who never failed a “coding challenge,” and there were a few people hired before any of us had been.
Lastly, are you willing to move? Hopefully you attend your bootcamp and get a job in the same city, as I said above, but you should entertain the idea of having to move, even to a city you haven’t heard of.
Another mentor told me that cities you’ve heard of can be the worst place to look for tech jobs because they’re flooded with applicants, especially if they’re labeled tech hubs and desirable places to live. He claims he gets daily emails asking if he knows students who are willing to move to Bentonville, Arkansas, or anywhere that has trouble attracting talent, especially non-costal cities.
Unemployment feels like the universe punishing you for being so entitled that you thought you could find a good career after a 15-week, non-traditional education. My 3+ months of job searching felt like a year, so I was absolutely going to take my first offer, which almost came from over a thousand miles away.
Consider if you’re willing to make that move, and know that the money-back guarantees from bootcamps only require that you are offered a job, not that you take it, so refusing to move means no money back if your unemployment lasts for a lot longer.
I am very happy with my decision to attend The Flatiron School’s “AccessLabs” in Brooklyn because I enjoy my job, I feel respected and appreciated at work, and about 10 months after leaving my previous job, I make almost $50,000 a year more. If you enjoy coding and think you’ll be good at it, I am optimistic about bootcamps, but think about these things first!