The technology industry can have a certain allure to it. The promise of innovation, salary, and job security forms a compelling reason for job candidates to explore different roles in the field. The road to technology can be a long one if the journey begins with four years of undergraduate study in computer science. However, a shorter route has presented itself in recent years. Coding bootcamps, which are abbreviated and accelerated forums to learn different coding languages, have become increasingly popular during the past few years. Course Report, a company that evaluates different domestic coding bootcamps, estimates that the coding bootcamp industry grew by nearly 40% in 2020. This career path can be exciting, but there are several pieces of guidance to consider before embarking on this journey.
Take Advantage of Free Resources
As of 2020, the average part-time coding bootcamp had a $12,265 price tag. Full-time programs are usually pricier as the average cost in 2020 was $14,605. Coding bootcamp candidates should view the program as an investment, but there are also options that are more wallet-friendly. Codecademy, Udemy,GCode, 100Devs, CodeTheDream, Ada Academy, AnitaB, Per Scholas and other institutions provide free or low cost resources to learn coding and/or data science skills. Exposure to coding beforehand can either make the coding bootcamp material easier, or could endow you with the knowledge to pursue a career in tech without the bootcamp.
Begin With Self-Reflection
Consider a Longer Program
A research paper in the mid 20th century introduced the notion of the “10,000 Hour Rule.” This idea suggests that it can take over 10,000 hours (or ~14 months) to truly become an expert on a subject. This research has limitations, but to its core, it attests to the influence of time and exposure when learning a new skill or topic. The average coding bootcamp lasts just over four months, so it can be difficult to absorb so much new information in such a small amount of time. While shorter programs may be attractive in terms of cost and time commitment, they may not be conducive to learning a new coding language and its applications. When considering the length of her SMU program, Ruth stated, “Three months is too short for a web development program. The learning curve and intensity were challenges, and coding takes a lot of patience.”
Read the Fine Print and Create a Financial Plan
Funding requirements and payment expectations represent some of the most burdensome parts of the coding bootcamp experience. These programs do not qualify for most federal loans, so you will need to be creative with financial assistance. Some bootcamps will allow interest-free monthly payments after you pay an initial deposit. Others encourage students to seek out private loans. It is crucial to understand the agreements very well if you do pursue a private loan route. There is a wide dispersion of annual percentage rate expectations within the private lender landscape. These APRs range from below 10% and to above 35%. Kedasha Kerr, a software developer and digital creator, was intentional and disciplined as she made her plan to pay for her coding bootcamp. When describing her own experience, Kedasha disclosed, “The bootcamp I attended had an income sharing agreement (ISA) option where I didn’t have to pay anything until I landed a job earning at least $50,000. After I landed a job, I would be on the hook to pay 17% of my gross income for 2 years up to $30,000. It was a lot of money to consider paying back but I figured that the benefits of the bootcamp and growth opportunity Software Engineering offered me was worth the risk.” Kedasha’s calculated risk paid off, and she has been a software engineer for a couple of years.
Ask About Jargon
The vocabulary associated with the computer science world can feel like a major barrier to technical comprehension. You will have to become familiar with phrases such as “refactor”, “byte”, and “mutex” in order to fully absorb the lessons and assignments. Rather than spinning your wheels and feeling unsure, it can be beneficial to use the internet for clarity. There is no shame in using Google to get clarity on a phrase or to turn to a YouTube video for additional explanation on an unfamiliar concept. In addition, it is worth leaning on classmates and asking for their help when you are feeling lost, confused, or overwhelmed with a novel concept.
Learn from your Community and Practice Self-Care
Coding can be a stressful and rewarding experience at the same time. Study groups and social media communities can be massively helpful when navigating both the content and emotional impact of coding bootcamps. Stress can compound within the abbreviated timelines of these programs. Therefore, wellness must remain a priority to minimize burnout. Exercise, good nutrition, supportive friends, and time to decompress can all facilitate a better bootcamp experience.
Bootcamps can form an ideal bridge between your current and future career if you are truly committed to a life in technology. But if you are unsure about your ultimate aspirations, it may be worth using free resources to their full extent. Either way, the lessons you learn about software and yourself along this journey can be truly valuable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black women occupied only 3% of the “computing workforce” in 2020. So, there is clearly ample room and need for us to make our mark in this space.