Coding bootcamps

After I decided that I wanted to become a software engineer, the next question was how to do it. I'd already gotten some initial exposure to coding through a programming class at Stanford called "106a: Intro to Java". My dad, who got his PhD in computer science from Berkeley and is an incredible programmer, suggested that I build an app to get some real world coding experience. I started networking with companies who were doing things I was interested in, and brainstorming possible apps I could build with my dad.

Then I found out about coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps have emerged in the past 2 years as a way for people to, in 3 months of intensive work, gain the skills needed to work as a junior or senior software engineer. I got really excited and applied to all of the major Bay Area bootcamps:

The interview process varied in intensity and length. The most intense interview processes were at Hack Reactor and App Academy, which were about 4 rounds of interviews, 3 of them technical in which you are given a coding problem and have to solve it on the spot with the interviewer watching. Hack Reactor also had a technical assignment in which you had to run Javascript on a server to build a twitter-type chat service. The programs either required you to learn basic Javascript or Ruby as part of the application process.

I was accepted by all of the bootcamps. Getting those acceptance letters was a fantastic feeling, because after being unsure of next steps in my career, I suddenly had a concrete plan that could to lead to a challenging and rewarding job. I was most impressed with Hack Reactor and App Academy, but ended up deciding on Hack Reactor. I chose Hack Reactor for several reasons:

  • I felt they had the strongest and largest instructor pool
  • their alumni job placement rate and average starting salary were the highest
  • I really liked all of the students and teachers I talked to
  • their facilities were new and comfortable
  • at 12 weeks, their course is one of the longer courses, so they can pack in more content
  • you spend the majority of your time on one language, Javascript, and so you can really do a deep dive into the language nuances and learn it well

So I'm starting their 3 month program at the end of February. I'm so excited to meet my instructors and the other members of my cohort. It's going to be an intense, wild ride!

I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to my RBT group, Joey Yang, Shu, and Josh Evans, who gave me some really helpful information and advice and made the intimidating process of applying much easier. I'm happy to share more about my experiences researching and applying to bootcamps to anyone reading this blog who has specific questions.

If you are reading this entry and thinking about next steps, here's what I'd recommend:

  • Google all of the bootcamps you're interested in. There's a lot of good posts on Quora, Reddit, and other blogs comparing the bootcamps. 
  • If you plan on applying to all of the bootcamps, complete the intro Javascript and Ruby courses at CodeSchool and CodeAcademy. They will give you a good sense of the proficiency level you'll need to get through the interview process, and whether you actually dig programming or not. 
  • When you've finished the curricula, apply! 
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