It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. Thinking back on the things I have considered, the common thing seems to be that I want to create. I have studied textile design and packaging design and at some point I wanted to be a baker or work with movies, you get the picture. Then two years ago I had to really rethink my working life and decided I needed a new challenge, a new start. That’s when I surprised both myself and the people around me with realising I wanted to become a developer.
After a rigorous application process with tests, two interviews and a letter of motivation, I got accepted to a 12 week bootcamp in C#, with the promise of a job after graduation. It was a scary step to take, but I’m so glad I took it.
The first three weeks were dedicated to the basics, like if-statements, loops, data types and classes, in a very high tempo. For each concept we would get a short lecture followed by related coding tasks. In those first days we could run through 5-6 new things every day. At the end of the third week we got our first group assignment, build a console app and of course all six groups decided to make some kind of game. My group did an ASCII Battleship game and even though it wasn’t pretty, it was so gratifying to make something that worked!
After that every week we tackled a new subject, like SQL, Entity Framework and MVC. Now and then we would have a one-day focus on something like UX, Scrum or RegEx, along with lunch and learn sessions about softer skills, like communication and consultant behavior. One day we got to build a simple html site in pairs as an intro to git (with the goal to solve as many merge conflicts as possible).
Every week ended with a checkpoint, a test to make sure that everybody kept up with the pace. For some that sounds scary, but to me they were a great confirmation that I took in the knowledge for that week and could spend the weekend getting ready for a new week of information bombardment.
During the last two weeks we did our final graduation project to tie all our new knowledge together in an actual product and at the end we had to present it to a panel of industry people. The project was just as much about working in a team and trying to work within Scrum as it was about the code. After that, we got to toast as graduated developers.
Now over a year later, these are some of the things I find myself reflecting over.
I knew from the start that I would not know everything at graduation, rather I would know enough to get started as a junior developer and continue learning on the job. For me one of the greatest things I took away was the knowledge that I can learn anything. Even though the bootcamp was mainly in C# I could confidently say “not a problem, I pick up things quickly” in an interview for a position that was not C#.
We practiced pair-programming and were always encouraged to help each other out. For me explaining something to someone else will help me cement the knowledge in a much better way. It also created a great team-feeling where we all wanted success for each other, and no one was afraid to raise their hand and say they didn’t understand something.
Like I mentioned we were also coached in other areas needed to be a successful developer today. For a junior developer it can be those other skills that are going to set you apart from other developers with more experience than you. Because in the end it’s not always enough to know the technical part, speaking with customers (in a way they understand) or being a good teammate can be just as important.
Is it better than a university degree?
No – it’s just a different way to become a developer.
For me it’s two completely different things. In pursuing a computer science degree you gain deeper knowledge on the theoretical and high-level concept, and a bootcamp focuses on the practical skills you need to be a productive programmer. It all depends on who you are and why you want to become a developer.