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Listener Question: Michael Asks About Dev Bootcamps

Published 8/23/2017

In today's episode, I answer listener Michael's question regarding dev bootcamps.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Computer science classes are known for a lot of things, but one of the things they are not really known for is being very easy. There's a lot of new concepts to grasp. There's a lot of multidisciplinary things that go on in computer science classes, and if you're not ready for those things, they can be a little bit daunting. They can even be a little bit daunting if you are ready for them. That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to ride you with the coaching and the insights and the inspiration, information, the interviews, all these things on the show to help you become a better developer. That's my goal in today's episode as well. I'm answering a listener question from Michael. Michael is a 28-year-old college student. I'm going to read the email he sent me, and then we're going to discuss some of the questions that are brought up in the email. Michael says, I'm a 28-year-old college student. I changed directions a little over a year ago to try my hand in computer science because of all the hype. I hear about the subject matter and not to mention it pays pretty well. I go to a Big Ten University, and our program here is pretty great, but it's proven to be very difficult. I've hit a few walls with how much I've been able to handle per semester and have a few setbacks. At this rate, I will be done in a little over a year if I'm able to pass the classes that I have lined up in front of me. This summer, I decided to not take summer courses and instead signed up for a coding boot camp that is partner with my school. It is very reputable and seems to be very beneficial. I was wondering what you thought about this decision. I could have taken two electives this summer, and it would have shortened my time in university, which is kind of driving me a little bit crazy by an entire semester. If this was a little too vague of a question, then what do you think of coding boot camps? Are they worth it? Thanks. Michael, thank you for writing in, and more importantly, thank you for being honest about the struggles that you're having with computer science. Computer science is not easy. It can be very difficult. There's a lot of abstract concepts that you have to grasp to be able to succeed in these classes. I want to answer your question kind of directly first, and then we'll expand and talk about computer science classes as it relates to coding boot camps. First of all, yes, I do think that coding boot camps can be very beneficial. I don't think that all coding boot camps are created equally. Nor do I think that all coding boot camps solve the same problems in the same ways. It kind of depends, but I've encountered quite a few developers who came out of coding boot camps and they ended up being employable immediately and I've encountered other developers who came out of coding boot camps that struggled for a long time to find a job. Perhaps the most common thing about coding boot camps that's relevant for this discussion is that usually they're pointed at employability. Whether or not you can get a job once you finish the coding boot camp, and many times they're used in place of a degree program. Sometimes they're used as a second degree. Once you finish college 15 years ago, you went in one direction in your career and you decided that you wanted to change directions and wanted to get up and running in that new career direction towards computer science. As you said in your email, Michael, computer science is a promising field that hasn't changed. It's continuing to be a more and more promising direction and computer science is continuing to spill over into other career choices as well. There seems to be a couple of goals at hand here for Michael. First of all, Michael, it looks like you want to finish college and this is a good goal to have. It's important that you finish college. It's important that you finish your classes. Those things are important to you. It's not important that everybody does the same thing that everybody follows that same path, but Michael, it seems like you want to finish that you're not thinking about dropping out. You're trying to find a good way forward and I would recommend that you find out as quickly as possible what the goals of this bootcamp are and what your goals are with the bootcamp. Let's talk about that. The goals of the bootcamp, in other words, what is the bootcamp, what does it exist for? Does it exist to help you accomplish the knowledge necessary to complete the degree program or is it in place as a career services program? That would be very different. Most of what you're going to learn in a computer science degree program is going to be more academic in nature. In general, you're not going to be developing a bunch of actually user applications, for example. You're not going to be doing software engineering as much as you will be doing theoretical discussion, perhaps some ethical discussions around the future of computing, etc. In a typical coding bootcamp, you're going to be tasked with learning a framework enough to implement an idea with that framework. You're probably not going to have much of an opportunity to hone, for example, your ability to assess logarithmic complexity. That's not what you're going to do in the average coding bootcamp. I want you to do a couple of things, obviously, understand the goal of the coding bootcamp. Most likely, you're going to find out that it's a career services program that the university has put on to help people transition from their degree program into an actual job into the future. If that's the goal of that, then you also need to decide what your goals are. Most likely, one of your goals will be transitioning to a job. If you can use this as an opportunity to practice some of the skills that you're learning in your CS program, but also to gain enough practical skills that you'll be employable when you do graduate, then you're going to be a couple of steps in front of the next person. Most people who graduate with only a CS degree, they typically don't have a lot of software development projects in their portfolios. They may have some class assignments, but ultimately, they're going to need to develop their skill set on the job. If you can start developing your skill set early, then you're going to be more employable. There's a lot of things to consider here. There's a lot of questions that are still up in the air about the specifics of the coding bootcamp. For example, are they teaching you a more modern framework? Are they asking you to implement things in multiple frameworks? Giving you a taste of what different tools exist in the space? Or are they actually focusing on things that you're going to be doing in the upcoming year? Is it academic in nature? So Michael, I want you to do another thing for me. I want you to work very hard to find a mentor. In this scenario, we're not talking about a career mentor. We're not talking about somebody who's going to discuss your personality with you as much as we're talking about an actual tutor. I want you to find maybe a grad student in the CS program and see if they can help you understand and filling gaps that are more difficult for you in the actual career program. What I don't want you to do is go back to school and fail two or three classes after going through this coding bootcamp and then feel like you need to step out of college and just go and get a job. First of all, I want you to succeed at both. I want you to get as much as you can out of the coding bootcamp. But I also want you to prepare yourself for the academic challenge that is in front of you. Lastly, I do think that when you have an off season, for example, winter, winter is coming up. Of course, fall is basically right in front of us. But the winter off season, most colleges provide online classes, most colleges provide a winter class. Usually, these classes are very compressed. It's going to be pretty intense. You're going to go every single day. What this allows you to do is focus a little bit more and get some of the weight off of your semester work and move it into a different bucket. You're just basically allowing yourself to carry fewer hours in the semester. You can also do this with half semester terms. There's shorter classes, some colleges provide this where it's not the full term. It's more like half of the term. You go at night every night or you go to a daily class and you finish the class in an accelerated timeline. This is going to help you focus more on that class. It's going to feel a little bit more like that bootcamp environment. But instead of carrying a larger load over the course of the entire semester, you're carrying the same size load but with fewer things taking your attention. That's the idea of the condensed classes. I'd recommend that you look into both of these things. At the very least, you need to understand what this bootcamp is intended to provide. Is it intended to be a career service? Is it intended to be an academic service? Is it intended to meet both of those things? Also, evaluate what you want to get out of it. Are you okay with it if it is a career service? If not, then what is your next plan? Would you go and take, for example, a summer course? Then, of course, find a tutor. Find a grad student or take advantage of one-on-one time with your teacher. This is something that I wish I had known more about when I was in college. Taking advantage of that one-on-one time, you can really find where you are deficient and you can be coached. That coaching process is going to help you learn much more than the classroom environment would. Thank you so much for writing in, Michael. Thank you so much for listening to the show. I hope this is welcome advice. Hopefully, I'm not too late in answering your question. Obviously, you're already going into this bootcamp with the idea that it's going to be a positive experience. That's half the battle, having a positive outlook and being willing to do hard work. Thank you so much for writing in. If anyone else has questions like Michael had for me today, you can always email me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Make sure you subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use and until next time, enjoy your tea.