There’s a prevailing hype – and a resulting hate – in online forums and tech articles directed at programming bootcamps and code schools. When I read one of these articles, it seems there’s an idea that people emerge from code school totally prepared to do anything. When considering stepping away from your current position and investing a few months and several thousand dollars into learning to code, it’s a fair question to ask: Is programming bootcamp worth it?
A guest post on TechCrunch last year fired back at criticism by challenging that putting down code schools and bootcamp grads comes from nothing more than tech elitism. While it’s true that code school can’t prepare you to be a full-stack developer ready for any career in engineering, I think you could say that a Computer Science degree doesn’t necessarily prepare you for that either. Both are simply a great way to start your career.
I graduated from a bootcamp – Launch Academy in Boston – and since then I’ve come to feel like a valuable member of the dev team here at Revelry. So, I was interested in getting the opinions of others – What’s the difference between a CS graduate and a code school graduate, and what strengths and weaknesses are present in either? I opened up a discussion on Blab and invited Robert Prehn, VP of Engineering at Revelry, and Brian Ng, also a code school graduate and fellow apprentice designer here at Revelry to chat about our experiences.
CAN YOU TRULY BECOME A GOOD PROGRAMMER IN THREE MONTHS?
One of the top criticisms you will find is that developers aren’t created in a mere matter of weeks. That simply being able to create a web app or learn a platform doesn’t make you a valuable new hire for a team. But what I learned about myself in code school was how much I can actually learn on the job.
I think people are tempted to think, “Oh great! Now I know how to program!” The truth is that you never really know how to program anything – you’re always learning new techniques.
One thing all three of us noticed while we discussed this topic is how on-the-job learning is a constant when you work as a developer. Every day requires learning, focus, and a change in the way you think.
“Code school really changed the way I think about things more than making me a great developer. What I found that I was prepared for was to learn on the job. I had enough willpower and means to take whatever was thrown at me and just dig in.”
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A COMPUTER SCIENCE GRADUATE AND A CODE SCHOOL GRADUATE?
When studying Computer Science, there is a great emphasis on learning algorithms, machine learning, graphics, and more heavy technical subjects. CS students are exposed to a broad spectrum of problems in a classroom setting. So, a programming bootcamp student will have to stop and self-educate in some of these areas.
My overall problem solving skills have changed. I’ve learned to solve smaller bits of a problem. I’ve learned to investigate reasons for problems. I now take the time to break down the parts of a problem.
Something that Brian shared that I think really drives this point home is this: “Thinking like an engineer is a skill in itself. Understanding that you have all the tools to find the solution, and the calm that comes with that, is really useful even outside of work.”
“The feeling of not knowing what you’re doing doesn’t go away because you suddenly know how to do everything. At some point it goes away because you just realize that that’s the business. Research is part of the business.” – Robert
HOW CAN AN EMPLOYER BENEFIT FROM HIRING GRADUATES FROM PROGRAMMING BOOTCAMP?
Robert, our VP of Engineering, pointed out that the folks that Revelry has hired out of code school are people who demonstrate an amazing quest to continue their education. “It’s inspiring how they have such an empathy for other learners,” he added. “They are the first to help others.”
You know, programming bootcamp didn’t promise me I would become some full-stack awesome developer. They molded me into a better, more productive person prepared for the work at hand.
You get a job because you know how to handle things. You gain the ability to learn while doing. This prepares you for the workplace. You don’t come out knowing how to do everything.
I like what I do now, and I couldn’t say that before.
“Absolutely you should round out your team by hiring from a code school. This complements and diversifies the experience on your team.” – Robert