As a person who isn’t shy about posting her life on the internet, I get asked a lot about my experience in a software coding bootcamp. I specifically get asked about my experience at General Assembly. I’ve found myself answering a lot of the same questions. I wanted to go ahead and put all the answers in one place.

So here we go!

How did you pay for it?

Wow, ok. Just hitting the ground running, aren’t we?!

I mean, that’s private and between me and my financial goddesses. If you’re asking because you’re wondering how you are going to pay for a software coding bootcamp, I recommend talking to your admissions person about financing options or scholarships.

Did you have any experience coding before signing up?

The short and very loud answer is YES. I spent most of my teenage years in my parents basement coding personal websites and being vague on Livejournal. Front-end design has come a long way since then, and I didn’t have any experience with JavaScript before my bootcamp.

I also have a Certificate of Advanced Study in Data Science, so I had a little experience with Python and SQL, even if it was 2 years ago and I hadn’t touched it since.

Lastly, when I knew I was committing 3 months of my life to a software engineering immersion, I started working on small projects again to get myself ready.

Why did you go to a coding bootcamp?

The very short story is that I lost my job for COVID related reasons. It afforded me a lot of time to really think through what I wanted to be when I grow up – and it wasn’t what I was doing.

At first I thought I was going to take a year and a half and earn an associate’s degree, but the more I thought about it, the less appealing that idea was in the long term. I’m a person who gets very anxious about money and bills and needed to do something that had a theoretically quick ROI.

After discussing it with a few friends who had been to bootcamps, I decided it might be the best thing for me.

So… What was it like?

Exhausting. Frustrating. Exciting. Rewarding. Terrible. Wonderful.

It was everything a learning experience is and should be. At times it was uncomfortable, but once the lessons started coming together, it was really great. At GA, they talk a lot about the necessity of a growth mindset, and it is vitally important to getting through a very intense 3-month program.

What did an average day look like?

Oh lordy. Buy a seat pad or a standing desk. Your tailbone is gonna be so mad at you.

I did the full time Software Engineering Immersion, which required sitting at a computer from 10AM to 6PM, Monday to Friday, for 12 weeks. And that was just class time.

I regularly spent 2 hours before class working on homework or labs, sat “in class” for 8 hours (we were remote due to COVID), and then spent time after class working on labs by myself or with friends I made in the cohort.

After the first project, I started to re-evaluate the way I handled class. I started getting up during lessons and walking around my office. I took breaks when I needed them before or after class. But I was still there, every day, watching and learning.

So… it’s been a few months.. Do you have a job?

Yes, but not in software engineering. Mid-way through the program I accepted a part time job that turned in to a full time job recently. It’s in the field I was in before my bootcamp, and it was a necessity for me to be able to pay bills and contribute to my household.

This is definitely something you have to be prepared to consider.

I’m also not applying as heavily as some of the other people in my cohort. I like my job and my coworkers, so I’m not as pressed to find a job in software engineering. Does that mean I’m not working on projects and I’ve abandoned everything I learned? No. I’m still working on projects and keeping my eyes open for the next thing for myself… But everyone should do that, regardless of where they are.

Would you recommend it?

This is tough for me. Do I think it was worth it for me? Yes. I learned so much and I think it just makes me even more employable. Web development is something I genuinely love to learn about and play with. I’m also so grateful every day for the friends I made.

Do I think it’s worth it for everyone? No.

I did a lot of reading before I signed up, and even after I had committed to the bootcamp. I asked people about their experiences, and even then knew it would be hard. I effectively put my entire life on pause for 3 months… which wasn’t hard given that we’re in a global pandemic and shouldn’t be leaving our houses anyway.

There are a few things that I definitely wish were a little different. Like I wish there was more time spent on the basics and fundamentals of programming and Javascript. Technical interviews rely on a knowledge base that I don’t feel I have, so I’m having to work extra hard to teach all of that to myself.

There are some other things to keep in mind if you’re considering the Software Engineering Immersion, or any bootcamp really:

  • My bootcamp is labeled a Software Engineering program, but it is specifically a Web Development program. You make web apps. You do not do traditional object oriented programming.
  • What is your support system? I have a great partner who picked up a lot of the slack around the house and understood how time consuming this program would be.
  • This is the most important: YOU ARE NOT GUARANTEED A JOB. Job placement rates from bootcamps, especially right now during COVID, cannot be your sole deciding factor. Also, no one will just give you a job because you completed a bootcamp. You have to work hard, network harder, and earn your spot.
  • There is no one-size fits all solution. Self teaching? Bootcamp? 4-year CS degree? Everyone has to make that decision for themselves. Don’t listen to the gatekeepers OR the people who are selling you snake oil. Any choice you make will have positives and negatives. Make yourself a pro and con list.
  • Coding bootcamps are a lot of work! They call it a bootcamp for a reason. There are days it will feel impossible, and that’s okay. Everyone in your program will feel like that.
  • You get to make some really cool shirt, and then when you’re done your program you get to make it even better.

Why are you so wordy?

I have the gift of gab.