I recently sat down with a previous student of mine and asked him a few questions about his experience at a coding bootcamp. Vance has had a fantastic journey. I’ve only known him for a short period, but I am convinced he is going to have a long and rewarding career in tech. I met and worked with him after he had two schools go out of business while he was attending and he made it through a third program while it was winding down. Read a little bit of our conversation below:
Michael: Vince, tell me a little bit about what you were doing before you joined a bootcamp?
Vance: In 2015, I attended ITT Tech. I was there for almost a year and a half. Then ITT Tech closed down. Shortly after that I contemplated going to a code school, but I wasn’t exactly so sure about it. Instead, I transferred credits over to Coleman University. I was almost there for two years, and I was finally able to complete my Associate’s. Then in July Coleman University closed down. I was shy maybe six classes of my Bachelor’s.
I only had three months left, and I was due to graduate with my Bachelor’s in March of 2018. I initially thought my only course of action was to switch to other schools which didn’t fit with my timeline. I would have been starting over at a new program.
I kind of wasn’t so sure about going back to school until I came across an email for a coding bootcamp and that’s when it dawned on me. This type of program fit my timeline.
Also, the coding program seemed more focused on the web, and I knew I wanted to get into the software industry fast. I felt like an immersive coding program was my best ticket at that point. I took a leap of faith.
Michael: Wow, that sounds so disappointing. What were your job prospects looking like after two schools closed down on you? What were you planning to do if you did not take this leap?
Michael: At the end of the program, after you finished your group and final projects, what was the job search process like for you?
Vance: For me, the process was ensuring that my Ts were crossed. Ensuring that all of the technologies that I did in my projects and even in my groups and all that stuff that they were on my resume. I spent some time getting my LinkedIn set up as well as my portfolio. Touching up my portfolio and making sure that the perspective of employers had to way to contact me was important. Making my LinkedIn a solid piece was important because right now social media is everything. So to have all my skills on my social media presence, I think that’s just as important as the resume itself.
Michael: What do you think was the most challenging portion of the program that you went through?
Vance: I think for me the hardest thing was the group projects, learning other people’s styles of coding. Also since I have a background in it, it was also learning that hey, sometimes I need to dial it down a little bit. Even though, yes, certain things I know that when I tell people sometimes, they don’t necessarily believe you because it’s not something that was taught in the program. Remember, these are people. A lot of them, they don’t necessarily have the experience that I do so it’s like I have to learn to really work with them.
Sometimes, not necessarily going against things that you believe in, but just being a better teammate. I think that was really a challenging thing because I am so used to having my way especially like on a project of my own. Like oh okay, I’ll do it this way. This is the way I want it. Then when you work on a team: It’s a cliché, but there’s no I in TEAM. It’s learning that.
Michael: How do you feel like you grew as a person over the period that you were going through the program?
Michael: A lot of people that have never coded before think that you have to be like really smart with math or you have to have a ton of experience to get started. What would you say to those folks that have those beliefs?
Vance: I would say for people that think you need to have math, it’s not true. You do need to know some math. At the same time, if you don’t know the math, but you put the hours in, you will learn that. You can learn anything if you put your mind to it. If you do it, you’re going to get better at it. That’s just the nature of the game. Put your hands on the keyboard. Then you learn it.
Michael: How much time would you say that you spent coding per day when you were in the program?
Vance: I was studying and coding at least a minimum of like 9-10 hours every day. At schools in the past, I think I did about 8.
Michael: If you had any advice for someone that was considering a code school or boot camp, what would your opinion be?
Vance: If you’re thinking of going to code school right now, take the leap of faith but also while you take that leap of faith make sure that you’re in 200%. Do everything that instructors tell you. They all ask you to put your hands on the keyboard.
For people that are worried that they won’t grasp it in such a short period of time, don’t worry about it. These schools aren’t made for you to learn all the concepts the first time or everything in those three months.
Bootcamps are designed so that you get the grasp of it and that you have the ability within three months to pick up how to learn a new language because when you go into the actual software industry, more than likely you’re going to have to learn another new language that you don’t know at some point.
That’s what employers are looking for. They’re looking for people that are malleable, that are sponges, that can actually go in and say, “Oh, I never did C#.”
“But can you learn it?”
They’re looking for people that are coachable. I think the main message is “be coachable.”
Michael: Awesome. Thank you very much for your time sharing these insights.
Vance Pope got a job offer within a couple weeks of finishing up at his bootcamp. He is currently working as a Junior Web Developer for Berkshire Hathaway.