This post is intended to be a mini-guide for people at ground zero who have no idea where to start or how to go about getting into a programming bootcamp. The disclaimer is that I’m not an expert on the subject. My perspective is as someone who prepared for, applied to and was accepted into three coding bootcamps. I can describe considerations and thoughts I’ve had along the way and voice simple assumptions about what may or may not work for others. The post is a biased opinion, feel very free to disagree.
Here are a couple sites that offer overviews on programming bootcamps. At times, the information is outdated or inaccurate, but these are a good starting point:
> Longer bootcamps are better. There are 6-month bootcamps located in Nashville (Nashville Software School), Denver and Boulder (both gSchool) and for women there’s tuition-free Ada Developers Academy in Seattle. Longer bootcamps allow for more classroom hours and for delving deeper into programming languages and projects, which grants more freedom of choice in designing the curriculum. In comparison, shorter bootcamps will need to choose programming languages more practically, basing their choice on how much of a language can be learned and presented in the typical 9 to 11-week session.
> Look for bootcamps that offer job or tuition incentives. For example, gSchool offers a full refund on tuition if you don’t find a job paying $60K+ within three months of graduation (having attended a percentage of their job-search arranged interviews and activities).
> Payment plans are also nice. Some schools want the tuition upfront. Again using gSchool as an example, you may be able to carry an interest-free loan for three years on just over half the tuition cost.
> Who are the teachers? Some programming bootcamps have previous bootcamp graduates teaching their classes. What’s the story on the school’s founder? Do they have an established identity yet in the tech industry?
> How long has the school been around? All programming bootcamps are relatively new (opened within the last 0-2 years). Are you willing to be in the inaugural class or do you prefer a school that’s had more time to work out kinks?
> How does the school perceive life during bootcamp? Some schools take pride in having students study 80+ hours a week. Others suggest a more balanced lifestyle which includes sleep and relaxation since they help the brain function better.
> What kind of web presence does the school have? Some schools have poor and/or copycat website designs. How well do the schools market themselves? involve themselves in local business to drum up prospective employers for their graduates? utilize social networking with Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook/Quora etc?
> Where is the school located? Since we can assume most prospective employers will be found local to the school, how do you feel about potentially living in that area after bootcamp finishes?
> What do their graduates have to say? Grads can be found on Twitter, private blogs and bootcamp blogs, and at local programming MeetUps. Talk with the grads about their experiences and impressions.
> Schools are looking for students with enthusiasm and drive. They’re not interested in accepting students who have ‘heard they might be good at programming’. They want students who have heard they might be good at programming so they take the initiative to study and confirm the attraction and search out online studies prior to acceptance into a bootcamp. Schools want students that will persevere in the face of difficulty. Tenacity is needed to work through challenges in code until functioning programs can be created.
> Do you have an existing web presence? What does it say about you? Build up enough of a professional web portfolio or presence to balance out those online naked, alcoholic beach photos.
> Saying you’re excited to attend a programming bootcamp means nothing. Everybody says that. How can you demonstrate it? Show them what you’re doing. Create a blog to track your coding progress. Get a web presence with Twitter or YouTube and reach out to the schools that interest you. Create a web presence that will market your true self as being enthusiastic and diligent about learning programming.
> My feeling is that gSchool is the best programming bootcamp based on its session length, established reputation and incentive package. If you decide to attend a longer bootcamp such as gSchool, keep in mind that healthcare reform may make programming students eligible for public assistance. Due to zero income during the upcoming study period, I’ve been approved for Medicaid and am receiving assistance from food stamps and a local food bank.
Okay, I’ll leave it at that. Tomorrow starts the gSchool journey and there are miles to go before I sleep.