Sept. 19, 2022

Did Your Coding Bootcamp Suck? Here's What You Should Do.

Coding bootcamps are definitely the best bang for your buck when it comes to landing your first developer role, but that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of programs that prioritize profit over your success.

For those that have signed up for coding bootcamps that delivered nothing but false promises, I feel for you. I truly do. If you're scared that you just blew a bunch of money for nothing, I promise you, you're not alone.

More importantly, I have great news for you. Even if you don't feel like it, you probably are MUCH closer to becoming a developer than you think you are. In this web development podcast episode, I talk about why that is and what you can do going forward in order to finally land your first developer role.


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Don Hansen:

All right. You just graduated a coding bootcamp and you feel like you got screwed over it. Wasn't what you thought it would be. You feel like you're not gonna get hired or you're really far away from getting hired. So in this podcast episode, I'm gonna go ahead and tell you what you're supposed to do now. Now the good news is you're probably closer to getting a job than you think you are. , but this is why I teach people to financially prepare a little bit after a coding bootcamp, cuz every coding bootcamp, you're gonna have some holes. So you're probably gonna need to supplement a little bit. Right. Let's talk about some of the things where people feel like they were screwed over with, for example, usually it's quality of curriculum. What they know when they come out of it, um, they feel like the curriculum was too rushed or, you know, they jumped into the coding bootcamp too quickly, et cetera, which is why you need to pick a coding bootcamp with a rigorous assessment. But, you know, if. Finish the program everything's spinning around your head. You don't really understand react or whatever you had to learn. You could solidify that knowledge that it's still there. It's still in your brain and you probably need to spend the next month to three months, like really reinforcing those concepts. Now is the time. To jump into projects. And this is true for any coding bootcamp, to be honest, but like, if your knowledge is really not solidified, you really don't feel like you have a depth of knowledge. Now is the time to implement. Now is the time to build out features that reinforce everything that you just learned. That's what you're doing. Right? So instead of doing that during the coding bootcamp, to the depth that you're gonna do it now, now you really dive heavily into projects. A lot of people. When they feel screwed over with the coding boot camp. For some reason, I don't know where they're getting this advice. They think they need to jump into data structures and algorithms. Do you know how difficult it is to tackle increasingly challenging problems in that area when you don't even have a good foundation? like, you really don't have good foundational, basic knowledge of the language that you're working with. The programming concepts in general. Right? A lot of the holes are probably going to put, like, if you have a bad curriculum or bad instructors, bad program design, where now you really are forgetting the fundamentals, you're forgetting that foundation, or you never learned it in the first place. why are you diving into data structures and algorithms? A lot of people, I think they think now I need to prepare for the interview. Know you, you prepare for the interview by doing software engineering work by building out features by building out projects. That's what solidifies things. That's, that's the. You can actually minimize the amount of time greatly that you're spending on data structures and algorithms, and really prioritize project work. And it's actually gonna make you better at data structures and algorithms or coding type challenges that you're gonna experience in the interviews way too many people dive into those types of challenges too quickly. You gotta build your own projects, reinforce everything. And you're probably gonna build a few projects. So a lot, also a lot of people feel like they got screwed over cuz they didn't build portfolio projects. If you go to a coding bootcamp, you pay a lot of money. I would probably prioritize a group project that you can come out with, right. A group project where you get to collaborate with people and figure out how not to step on each other's toes. And. Uh, work with, get and source control and deal with emerge conflicts. And if some people graduate without ever dealing with emerge conflict, I'm like, what was the real complexity of your application? If you did that? Like how fast was the group moving? It makes me question the quality of that group project, but. Yeah. Um, if you, you know, you should prioritize that, but if you don't have a group project, you haven't worked with source control, you pick that up, you put it into your personal project. It's okay. You just build a complex per, uh, a project that you actually want to build. And I would have fun with it. Think about a project. Like again, What could you have built in your old industry? Like if you used, so first of all, actually you probably used software and your old industry, even if it wasn't tech related that software is probably shitty. It probably had bugs. It probably didn't have features that you wanted it to have that would've made your job easier. Right? So you understand that user, you are your user of this new project that you're gonna build of software that you wish you would've had in your old industry, web based software. If you're going to a web based coding bootcamp, Or think about like even apps that you love to use or a feature you wish this feature was implemented in Twitter, you wish this feature was implemented in your email client. It would make your life so much easier. Build that feature out. Just silo yourself to focus on that small feature, right? That's a little bit more reasonable to build. and build out that feature. You wish you would've had, but have fun with your personal project. You shouldn't just be seeking what projects should I build that employers care about? That's that's the wrong question to ask you should think about what projects do I want to build that will showcase. My unique personality and what I'm bringing into the software engineering world. And if you wanna build like a fitness app, right? You wanna build a fitness app. You're passionate about fitness. That's gonna show to companies that care about, um, You know, maybe they're more focused on like a health related product and that's the type of users that they attract. And with your focus on fitness, so where maybe you have like a healthcare background, you can integrate that. And that's what makes you unique among hundreds of other applicants take advantage of that. And it's gonna take some time to like sit down and try to write out ideas. And those ideas might not come to you as fast as you want them to, but then you explore the web. What ideas exist, what don't, what kind of apps could be built after I explored a dozen different healthcare apps, et cetera, like what is lacking? For people that I've met that are also passionate about fitness. A lot of times it just comes down to you thinking about what you could use in your personal life, build out those personal projects. Right. But, um, yeah, you're just building, that's what employers care about. They wanna know what you are interested in building, and you can build complexity on top of that. Right? So this fitness app, um, maybe you just. You wanted to build, um, a timer, right? You do high intensity interval training and these other, like other timers, they don't really do it a way that fits to your workout. So you can go ahead and build that. And then people kind of get stuck with, okay, well, Don told me to build this complex project. I built this, right. It's just a basic timer, but like our employer's really gonna care about it. Cool. So now let's think about how some of these other companies are. Taking these small nugget of ideas and building a full-fledged application that like users love and pay money for et cetera. Well, it's like, okay, well, users probably gotta come back to my app. Right. So they're probably gonna care about, you know, previous results. What do I do? I actually. Compare my yesterday's results with today's. Right. So does my timer really do that? I'm not really saving it, so it doesn't cool. Now, what do I build? What feature, what complexity do I build into my application? That'll allow people to come back view old data, et cetera, and you continue to build complexity. In that way. So think about the project that you wanna build and then bring the complexity into it. As you further think about what users could actually utilize and benefit from with this idea that you wanna build out. It's building. There's no secret to it. It's just supplementing and building. And here's a problem. When you come out of a, a bad curriculum, a bad coding bootcamp, a bad course, a lot of people wanna jump into another course. Right? Well, a lot of bad courses, they teach you a lot of, they at least outline a lot of what you need to learn. Right. And they kind of teach it to you. And sometimes I, well, actually too often, I see people go on course after course after course after course and trying to like, that's how they supple. But in reality, when you come out of a bad coding bootcamp, you jump into a project right away. Where are my holes? Okay. Now let's take, I I'm weak with, um, well, what we were just talking about, like authentication, right? That's a solution for your old app. I'm weak with authentication. So maybe I look up an article, I look up an article. I figure out what is kind of a common convention for implementing authentication. Oh, right. There are multiple types of authentication that I could use. Right. What's session authentication. That seems to be like what a lot of these tutorials are. Um, same, but I also found tutorials with token based authentication. I, I'm kind of just curious, right? So I'm gonna go ahead and watch a YouTube video. I'm gonna look up something else that kind of explains this to me, but I don't need to take a full fledged course that goes over every single fundamental all over again. And it's like a 50 hour course. Maybe that's not the best use of my. I'm telling you it's project work, use that project work to figure out your holes. And as you build more complex features, you need to figure out more go back. Um, and when you're gonna supplement, look at API documentation, maybe an article or two, maybe a YouTube video, but make sure it's focused information to supplement and fill those holes in your knowledge. That's the trick. And a lot of people will waste a lot of time going back through courses or they'll waste time, just trying to prepare for interviews. And again, you're doing all those coding challenges, et cetera. That's how you think you're gonna get the job. It's like, you're not building any projects. You're not really growing much as a software engineer and you're, you're actually moving further and further away. from all that growth that you did gain in the coding bootcamp from building stuff. Cause even a lot of bad coding, bootcamps, you're still building stuff. And that's still one of the best ways that you're gonna grow and learn as a software engineer, sometimes it's money. Um, this is the tricky thing you need to, first of all, always assume self claimed outcomes are complete bull. Um, and even third party reported outcomes, there are always ways that they can exclude student data. And you should question that, right. So how do you overcome that? You can't really determine the real outcomes of coding boot camps. Like what you can do. Like you can go on LinkedIn and just look at a hundred, 250 graduates. When do they graduate? Do they have a job? That's probably one of the most accurate ways to do it, to be honest. But even then, it's like, that's probably more accurate than a lot of self claimed outcomes, but it's not gonna be super accurate. What happens if they didn't update their job? In my experience, that's the best way to go, but I wouldn't even trust outcomes. I would just say, okay. Um, I am going to, I'm not gonna trust these outcomes, so I'm gonna financially prepare. For this outcome to not be my statistic, I'm gonna expect my statistic to actually fall lower in the range. Cuz you don't even know what's gonna come up in life, et cetera. That's going to change your outcome, your percentage, your chance of getting a job within six months. So I'm gonna go ahead and give myself a little more financial leeway. You gotta do it in the beginning. Right. That's the trick. It's hard to account for it at the end, but that's, that's one thing that really screws people over as like, oh yeah. I expected to get a job within three months. I expected to get a job within six months. Fuck. I am no more money in the bank. It's already six months. I still don't have a job. Now. What if you don't even have a plan to be able to pay your bills and you encountered that situation without a. That's a really bad spot to be. And that's where I see a lot of people will they'll give. on becoming a software engineer and they'll just kind of put it to aside. I can't do it now. They'll go back to the old industry. And a lot of people, you know, they signed a contract saying like, they gotta start paying the coding bootcamp back. Right. If you went on a payment plan, um, even if it's going back to an old industry, my job makes at least 40,000. Now I have a big bill, a big educational bill to go on top of that. That's rough. A lot of people get them itself into a really dangerous financial situation with no backup. I would say that is the number one reason why people generally don't recover from bad coding boot camp experiences. Cause like most of these coding boot camps, they'll get you 50, 60, 70, 80, 90% of the way even quality ones. Don't get you a hundred percent of the way. All like you can get a job technically, but like the first month you're still doing tons of project work to reinforce everything. Um, But yeah, you just need to give yourself a little bit of financial wiggle room. You don't know what's gonna pop up. Um, you don't, you don't have a hundred percent confidence if that's going to, uh, even if it's, uh, a highly rated coding bootcamp, according to whatever website that you looked at, even if that's the case, you don't know if that's going to be your experience right. usually pretty much even bad coding. Boot camps will get you a chunk of the way there. And the good thing is a lot of these low quality coding boot camps, where people are having tons of bad experiences with, they will get you the outline. They will get you an outline of what you need to learn, even if they don't teach it well. Right? So you could still supplement that knowledge. And when you have to go back and you have to learn things. You know, we kind of shared how to learn things. Sometimes you will have to dive back into some fundamentals of the coding. Bootcamp is really bad, but even then it's just a little bit of education and a lot of project work to reinforce a lot of this. That's what you're doing, right? So if you can give yourself a financial backing and room to be able to supplement and build projects, et cetera, that's phenomenal. So afterwards, sometimes you don't have that network, right? Cutting bootcamp. Doesn't have a strong alumni network where you can engage with people. Sometimes the career services will drop off. They won't help you anymore, or they're not helpful to begin with. Right. And so get involved in developer communities, local and online. Um, you could get involved in like discord communities. Discords really popular among developers. If you're on Twitter, there are Twitter tags and, um, you can get involved with and just engage with other developers on Twitter. Get involved in online hackathons in person hackathons and hackathons are really good for pushing at a project very quickly. Collaborating, especially if you didn't get that experience at a coding bootcamp. Uh, so if you're lacking group projects, right? Cause I think it's helpful to at least come out with one group project. from a coding bootcamp, but yeah, if you're lacking them, try to build stuff with others, be that person that initiates the conversation of, Hey, I actually wanna code with other people. I wanna build this project or does anyone know any hackathons that are available to me or people that just graduated a coding bootcamp to kind give them an idea of your experience? Cause there are like super beginner hackathons. They're kind of like intermediate, et cetera. They're different skill level hackathons focused on different outcomes. Um, but you could focus on hackathons that will have recruiters and, uh, companies that will actually look at some of the top projects and, uh, have an interview with some of the, the people that participate part I should have just called them participants of that, uh, hackathon group that actually won the hackathon. Right. So network go to meetups, meet other developers. And then, you know, a lot of it is it, there are so many videos and advice on how to actually go through the job search process. I'm I'm just gonna give you a little bit, but my channel's full of other advice. Um, make sure your resume is tailored towards front end towards backend positions, have two separate resumes. If you just got out of a full stack coding bootcamp, you apply with the front end to front end back end with back end. Right. Um, submit a cover letter. They are effective. If you do a little company research, just a little company research to understand, um, the company values, et cetera, do your values align. Sometimes they don't, honestly, sometimes they don't. And when they look up your social media, maybe the representation of who you are, isn't gonna align with their values. Right? Focus on a company where your, your values do. . Um, but sometimes it's just like a lot of bullshit corporate values, which to me Al sometimes did feel meaningless, but I've also worked at companies where they didn't feel meaningless. It actually drove the culture of the company. Um, but yeah, once you. You do that cold application, you submit it with a cover letter. You did a little research, then reach out to the team and, you know, engage with some of the content on LinkedIn of the developer team, or, you know, um, just engage with content of professional developers, hiring managers, et cetera. Uh, get your name out there, build that network, expose your process as a developer, share the project that you just worked on. Do you guys have any feedback for my project? Right. So you can also show humbleness, uh, a lot of it's a lot of it's presentation, but. I wouldn't say presentation in an inauthentic way. It's just exposing who you are and it's exposing how you think about things and how you engage with people and how you engage with people or engage with conflict, engage with people that disagree with you. Um, the more you can do that in a constructive way, that looks pretty good. And it'll get the eyes of other people that kind of just wanna hire a good. a lot of junior developers, a lot of entry positions is just about, you know, focusing on someone that's gonna be a reduced ramp up time, you know, as much as possible, but also on who's gonna be a long term fit and who's gonna grow as a software engineer in the way that company wants a software engineer to grow. A lot of times, it's just humbleness and eagerness to learn eagerness, to build things, figure things out, resourcefulness. Um, you're, you're much further than you think you are. You are. And a lot of times it's just getting your financial situation in order and understanding. I need to get a part-time job, right. Or I might need to get a full-time job, et cetera. Of course, read your bootcamp contract to see if it does trigger any payments that you, that need to be made. But, um, a lot of times it's just being able to supplement those finances to just extend your growth as a software engineer a little bit more till you finally get that position, I'm telling you a lot of developers that graduate they're a lot closer than they think they are. There are probably other niche ways that people have gotten screwed over by coding boot camps. But generally these are the ways that I, or these are the thoughts that a lot of people share with me. And these are the worries and concerns people have. So if you have a unique situation, um, , you know, feel free to bring it up in the comments. Honestly, feel free to bring it up in my live Q and as I love engaging with conversation in my live Q and a, and sometimes I'll just take the comments and I'll bring some of those topics up into videos, or I'll talk about it in the live Q and A's. But yeah, if you, uh, if you have any questions, anything like that, let me know. We could engage on Fridays. That's when I do my, uh, lead COO days, every one 30 central. Bring your questions happy to help. But, um, yeah, I'm telling you, you're closer than you think you are. Keep pushing forward supplement be resourceful, which is pretty much the expectation that all developers have anyways. So you can sees hope to see everything see in the next one.