If you didn’t hear about it in the streets (aka my social media pages), I’m here to announce that I completed my 12-week iOS bootcamp! There’s no feeling like this one. I’ve acquired a set of hard skills I previously found impossible to attain. I entered a white, male dominated industry and have the skills to compete. I’ve just changed the trajectory of my life and my career. And guess what? You can too.
Yes, you CAN do it. But the real question is should you? I’ve got the tips for any career changers out there considering a coding bootcamp.
With no background in STEM, can I really code?
My dearest reader, whoever you are wherever you are, take a pause, find a mirror and repeat after me: “I can do anything.” Done? Ok great. So listen, I’m not here to pitch you on a happy go lucky career that anyone can succeed at. And I’m not here to convince you that anyone can learn to code (even though I think it’s true). I am here, however to demystify the stereotype of a programmer.
Myth #1 “But programmers all have CS degrees from Stanford!” I think we can thank Silicon Valley statistics for this myth, but the truth is this is not accurate. A lot of programmers I’ve encountered are self-taught and many did not graduate from college. So don’t let the job descriptions intimidate you, there’s no “STEM requirement” to learning to code. There is, however, a determined work ethic and love of problem solving that is ABSOLUTELY necessary to succeed. If you don’t have that STEM background, you will have to spend time mastering up algorithms and logic puzzles. Invest in books like “Crack the Code” and even a Udemy course or two. But technical interview skills are similar to most job interviews; employers want to see how you think. You should really be focused on your ability to code in the language you know and demonstrating your ability “think smart” in your interview!
Myth #2 “But programmers are all white men!” Hello - Black Woman here. While, the engineering industry is predominantly male, boot camps are reportedly 43% female nationwide. Despite the lack of representation in the industry, women and POC do in fact belong in technical roles, and there of plenty of companies working to prove it. If you’re a woman or POC in tech, look up these companies: Women Who Code, Code 2040, /dev/color, #YesWeCode. Tech Inclusion, & Telegraph Academy. (Please note that I’m currently in Cali and so most of these programs are based over here.) Invest in support from communities that will empower, inspire, and enable you with the confidence and skills to take on this industry!
Myth #3 “I love tech but I don’t have the right background.” Before I decide to apply to my bootcamp, I had never seen a single line of code. My love of problem solving and tech innovation was enough to get me to explore software engineering, and it was a worthwhile leap. I didn’t think I would be a great programmer because of my aptitude for science or math, I knew I'd be a great programmer because I had the a relevant set of experiences and skill-set. Have you had experience with agile project management? Are you detail oriented? An awesome communicator? Relentless problem solver? If you’re thinking about the switch, do some research into the key skills and behaviors required to succeed as a programmer, you may have found your perfect match!
If you’re still doubting yourself I recommend that you 1) do some programming logic quizzes online (logical problem solving is central to all engineering roles), 2) buy a $20 UDEMY intro to whatever programming language you want to learn, and 3) practice on your own skills for a month. If you feel good about the struggle—if finally debugging that one line of code or writing the perfect for loop gives you a natural high—it’s time to start looking into bootcamps! If you feel it’s not for you, don’t count yourself out of the tech industry, there are PLENTY of roles that don’t require a technical background (UI/UX, Product Management, Marketing, etc).
I’m ready for a bootcamp, will I really become a master in 12 weeks?
Let’s be honest here, your level of mastery is mostly dependent on what you do outside of the classroom. But, it also depends on the bootcamp program you decide to take. Here are some tips:
1) Web or mobile? So you’ve decided on programming, but you also need to decide on the platform you want to use. For me making this decision was about what I wanted to do career wise: solve problems for users via the platform on which I find my biggest frustrations. I wanted a hand in impacting my most frequent daily experiences and and so I turned to mobile You, on the other hand, may be looking for more real estate. Perhaps you’re tired of seeing 90’s themed websites and you’re on a mission to revitalize the way we interact on the World Wide Web. Whatever it is, make sure you have a passion behind your why.
2) Location, Location, Location. Where do you want to work? Start thinking about that now because your bootcamp will like focus their job support efforts locally. While you shouldn’t assume you are limited to any one city in the world, you should spend your time during your bootcamp networking and building connections in the city you’d like to build you career. Tech movements vary from city to city and so finding your home for an intense 12-weeks is also about finding your “impact” niche. Research the tech scene in the areas where you’re interested in taking a bootcamp. What companies are represented in that community? I’d also suggest starting to attend tech happy hours and networking events to get an authentic feel of the scene.
3) Find the right fit. Picking the right bootcamp is one of the most important steps in your process. You want to make sure you’re picking a place where you’re going to get a quality immersive learning experience. Tips for knowing your fit? Ask to audit a class or two! Check out if you like the teaching style of the instructors? Grab a student for 10 min! Admissions officers and employees are kind of hired to sell you on their bootcamp. But the people with the real gems are students. Ask them how they are experiencing the course, if they would recommend to others, and what special tips they have as you prepare to apply. Special note for women and minorities. Finding an inclusive space is incredibly important for your experience. Make sure your asking about that as well, and check out Grace Hopper and Telegraph Academy.
4) Intensive really means intensive. 60+ hours a week?! Are those advertisements true? Yes. These 12 weeks are so tiring. You will make sacrifices financially and socially. Your weekends will be spent trying to catch up while also attempting plan ahead. Project week is literally dubbed sweat pants week. You may gain weight (or was that just me) eating the same meal 6+ times a week. And you will most certainly spend more time than just 9-5 learning and studying. Bootcamps are intensives and so they are…intense. But it’s only worth as much as you put into it. I was simultaneously taking a Udemy course while in my bootcamp. I was working with my peers and I was networking. You have two jobs: learn to program and prepare for the job search. So get ready for a ride.
5) Believe in yourself. I really tried to write this in a less cliché way but it turns out it’s exactly what I mean. Imposter syndrome is such an annoying little bug but it happens to the best of us—it happens even more to women and minorities. Here’s the scenario: you completed a 12-week bootcamp, you’ve built four mobile apps, you’ve put in the extra work, you’ve identified your target roles and yet, you still feel nervous? This is to be expected, but guess what? You’re a developer. You. Are. A. Developer. I wake up in the morning and look at a series of post-its affirming my new skills. “Olamide, iOS Software Engineer.” And I have the skills to prove it! Go confidently in the skills you’ve acquired—always learning, always growing, but always believing in what you already are.
So the hard part is over right?
Ehh. Completing a bootcamp is an incredible feat, but now It’s time to put your best foot forward and show the world what you got! Whatever path you choose, it’s up to you to determine what role you’re most determined to take. What’s most important is that you don’t allow anyone to define what your next stage looks like for you. You may encounter different perspectives on the right next step, but only you can determine how to take your newly acquired skills and combine them with your past experiences to create the career you’ve been dreaming of. In reality, the job search is about more than your confidence, and I plan on writing more about that here. I just want my readers to know that we’re all in this together. If you’ve recently entered the job search as well, drop me a line! And look out for my next series on preparing for the job search for career changers.