8 Powerful Tips to Help You Change Careers via Bootcamp
If you've been feeling restless in your current career and are seriously considering making the leap to programming, you've likely started looking into different coding bootcamps and weighing your options as you consider what's important to you. Even if you understand the benefits of coding bootcamps on paper, that's not the same as feeling confident about your career change.
Coding bootcamp admissions teams and support staff can talk about outcomes all day long, but they can't really prepare you for how you'll feel at different stages of your coding bootcamp journey. What will the experience itself be like? What lessons will you learn along the way, and what should you know before you arrive?
The best people to tell you that are the folks who've not only been through it, but also had time to get some distance, get some experience in the industry, and really reflect on how their experience set them up for success and what was most valuable to them about the coding bootcamp. So here are seven grads who took the time to share their takeaways. We hope you'll find their reflections valuable as you pursue your own career change by way of attending a coding bootcamp.
1. Changing careers doesn't mean you're "flaky." It means you're willing to grow.
Emily Drevets left her SF tech job in the summer of 2014 to pursue a future in professional clowning. Her artistic endeavors led her to Chicago, where she stumbled on ChiHackNight, a local event where programmers get together to share and grow within the Chicago civic tech community.
She was surprised at how deeply interested she was in this new world—so much so that she ultimately pivoted her career from clowning to programming. She eventually graduated from Fullstack Academy, and she reminds you to make your choices for you and not let other people's opinions hold you back. As she so poignantly puts it, "Other people may be confused when you change what you want. But isn't that the point of life (or one of them, at least)? To learn, grow, and change? Why shouldn't you take new information into account and update accordingly? Consistency is great for breathing but it does not apply so easily to everything. Let's keep it where it belongs."
2. Start with self-study. Let a coding bootcamp take you the rest of the way.
For Stella Chung, the Grace Hopper program offered an efficient way to become job-ready, an inspiring community, and the tools and practice she needed to learn to speak comfortably and eloquently about coding and related topics. These are exactly the kinds of benefits you'll get from a coding bootcamp that you won't get if you're learning to code all by yourself.
That isn't to say self-study isn't valuable. Chung herself had dedicated a lot of time to learning on her own before attending Grace Hopper, and she speculates that she could very well have learned to build things, built up a portfolio, and gone on get a job all on her own... eventually. But Chung wanted a tech job now. And the value-add of pair programming, expert instructors, and job search support made applying to bootcamp a no-brainer. Being around like-minded students accelerates your readiness to enter the developer community at large and will be the perfect springboard for your new career as a developer.
3. But what if you're not ready for bootcamp? No one is. Just go for it.
In her "Coding Bootcamp Cheatsheet," Sarah Grossman outlines tips on how to survive the first six weeks of coding bootcamp. She was worried she'd never get into coding at all because she didn't major in CS, but when she arrived on Fullstack's NYC campus, she found that the vast majority of her cohort were also non-CS majors. One big tip for prospective students: No matter your background or current situation, there's no reason to stress and every reason to plan ahead and prepare.
She advocates for potential and accepted bootcamp students to start studying new concepts now; simply being exposed to them will help you down the road, even if you feel like you're going through the motions and not really absorbing any of it right now. Most bootcamps have resources to help you prep; for example, Fullstack Academy offers a Bootcamp Prep course that more than doubles your chances of being admitted. And don't be afraid to ask alums or interviewers lots of questions. Interviewers want you to make the right decision, and many alums will generously share their thoughts (as Sarah now does) to help you do the same.
4. It's okay if you don't know everything—as long as you're willing to learn.
Fullstack NY grad Charity Corcino had always wanted to be a doctor, and when that dream didn't pan out, she worried she'd never fill the space in her heart it had once occupied. That is, until her post-college telecommunications job sparked a question: Could she actually fix the bugs she was identifying? This uncovered a love of coding: When 10 hours went by in a flash the first time she sat down to teach herself coding, it was clear that this was what she wanted to pursue.
One long journey (that included overcoming a traumatic brain injury) later, Corcino accepted her dream job as a software engineer at The New York Times. Though it's easy to look at Corcino's story and think she's officially "made it," she's the first to point out that in order to succeed in tech, you must rid yourself of your ego. Ask for help when you don't know something. Get comfortable with uncertainty. Software engineers are constantly familiarizing themselves with new technologies and developing new skills, so prepare yourself now to feel like there's always something else you should be learning.
5. Remember to set realistic expectations for life after boootcamp—and that includes your job search.
Anna Medyukh finished Fullstack Academy's Web Development Fellowship (WDF) feeling like a superhero and threw herself wholeheartedly into networking, hackathons, continuing education, and more--only to find she was quickly approaching burnout. After re-evaluating her priorities, and setting some healthy limits, she found the job search more manageable--but she also felt more restless.
As she reflects on her job search now and the challenges she's faced along the way, Medyukh realizes that the rejections she's been dealt sting more in this pursuit than they ever have before because of how passionate she is about coding and how eager she is to break into the industry and start contributing.
It's important to remember that though software developers are in demand, the hiring process can be like the hiring process in any other industry: It's sometimes slow; it's often nerve-racking; and it will require time, energy, and ingenuity. At coding bootcamps like Fullstack Academy, the Career Services team will do everything in their power to help you prepare for and find success within your job search, but it's important to know from the start both that it's up to you to prepare yourself fully and put in all the work you can, and that there will be many factors beyond your control. All you can do is your best. If you're doing that, you're doing it right.
6. How to leverage your bootcamp's alum network--the right way.
As a gainfully employed software engineer and Fullstack Academy alum, Stephanie Manwaring is used to receiving referral requests from contacts within her professional network, whether it's people she knows in real life or those she's virtually connected with. Most times, senders want to be referred to the hiring team at her job—and yet a lot of the time, their messages make it hard for Manwaring to decipher exactly what they want from her, creating extra work on her end and making it less likely she'll be able to help.
So Manwaring recently shared on Medium that the best referral request she's ever received actually came from a fellow Fullstack Academy alum—one who wasn't in her cohort. She was impressed by the simplicity of his message and the ownership he took of his ask, and was happy not only to help him out, but to share his message with her entire network to teach others how to network effectively and respectfully.
7. Imposter syndrome doesn't go away after bootcamp. Here are some ways to deal.
After completing Fullstack Academy's Web Development Fellowship (WDF) program, Sarah Katz still found herself feeling like an industry outsider in more ways than one.
Though tech is evolving, it's still very much a boys club in many respects, and she felt excluded when it came to her job duties, her interests outside of work, her company's culture, and her own lack of personal engagement within the broader tech community.
So Katz turned to Medium to first courageously and publicly document her feelings, and then come up with actionable ways to remedy them. One major solution for her? Speaking up--whether to suggest a new company outing or request a transfer to a different project. Taking the time to identify both what's not working for her and how she might be able to fix those problems has relieved some of Katz's imposter syndrome and validated, in her own eyes, her identity as a growing developer.
8. Navigating your age in a "young people's" industry.
As someone who didn't start coding seriously until she was in her 30s, Jami Gibbs admits that she feels "downright ancient" compared to the youthful presentation of much of the tech industry. She also acknowledges that she's had this long-standing obsession with and interest in tech and coding since childhood—so what took her so long to act on it?
In her essay exploring this question, Gibbs touches on the emotional roadblocks and oppressive forces that many women face when they dip their toes into male-dominated spaces and she reflects on what really kept her from pursuing her dreams for a full decade. Only you know your own journey, but the silver lining is that no matter how delayed your entry may feel, once you join the programming world, there will be lots of ways to give back and provide the support and encouragement that a younger you could've used. That's pretty cool to think about.
Feeling a little more confident about your career change? Right now, Fullstack Academy is making it easier to say, "Thank you, next" to your current career by offering 100k in scholarships. Find out how you can get your hands on some of that scholarship money here.