The more we learn about human decision-making, the more emotional and less rational we know ourselves to be. Take coding bootcamps: For the right candidate, rationally speaking, the benefits far outweigh the costs. You’re paying much less for a specialized education than you would at a traditional university, and it will take you much less time to graduate. Yet you’ll emerge with the same set of hard skills and the same job prospects you would after earning a four-year degree or even completing a two-year graduate program. But if the benefits are so great, why are many people still hesitant to take the leap? The answer is fear, and below are five common ones that keep programming enthusiasts from pursuing a career in tech via coding bootcamp.
It’s human nature not to want to go backward, so it’s understandable that after working for several years, the prospect of abandoning all the progress you’ve made in your industry and at your specific company is daunting.
But the question to ask yourself is: Are you satisfied? If you’re sitting around wishing you could transition to a new career in tech, the answer is probably “No.”
And if the answer is no, then what are you really giving up by leaving? An unfulfilling career? A disappointing job? That doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to give up when you think about it. Yes, you’re probably comfortable there—you know how late you can come in, which of the executive team is always on your side, and you’re not at the bottom of the corporate ladder anymore—but you also probably realize that “comfortable” doesn’t outweigh “fulfilling.”
So stop thinking of a career transition as “starting over.” Instead, think of yourself as having reached the end of one train, crossing the platform, and stepping onto a new train that continues on in the same direction. You still have all the professional skills you’ve developed during your time in the workplace, and you won’t lose those by attending a coding bootcamp. You’ll just supplement them with the hard skills you need to transition to a career in software engineering, the confidence that comes with those skills, and the wonderful community of support you’ll find at bootcamps like Fullstack Academy
Our limbic brain insists we protect ourselves and our offspring at all costs—another instance of human nature—so leaving a job that pays you the money you need to live might seem counterintuitive.
Many people will even frame quitting your job and heading to coding bootcamp as irresponsible—especially your parents, or other Americans who were well-established in their fields before the recession, and then the sharing economy, and then the gig economy upended the very notion of a “career.”
But like we said: Humans are emotional beings. If you’re unhappy now, in the thing you do all day every day, it’s not likely you’ll magically get happier the longer you stick with it. Quite the opposite, in fact, and that frustration of being unfulfilled professionally may very well bleed into the rest of your life—personal relationships, interest in creative pursuits, and more.
So instead of being daunted by the crazy idea of quitting your job and enrolling in a coding bootcamp, make a very granular plan that takes all the scary unknowns out of the equation.
How much do you have in savings? Is it enough to cover bootcamp tuition and the cost of living for 17 weeks of class, plus the six months or so it may take you to get a job? Can your partner or spouse support you, and are they willing to? Do any bootcamps offer financial aid or even scholarships? There are lots of programs out there for underserved communities, so don’t assume you can’t afford it.
Finally, what expenses can you cut to minimize the squeeze? It can be hard to say no to dinners with friends, to live in last season’s clothes while your friends continue to shop, to shelve your travel plans until after you get a job—but we’re talking about the rest of your life, here, and the rest of your life is worth a year of austerity, if you can afford it.
We all know you’re never too old to learn—learning keeps your brain young, elastic, and healthy—but the idea of being back in a classroom, especially with people who are a more traditional age to be in school, can be discouraging.
So remember that going to school as an adult is different than going to school as an undergrad, and bootcamps like Fullstack have developed their curricula specifically for individuals transitioning from one field to the next. Plus, all the soft skills you’ve learned in your years in the workforce will absolutely serve you and probably give you a leg up both as you collaborate on group dev projects and as you progress through the hiring process.
But what about age discrimination? It’s real and it can make your life more difficult—just as gender discrimination and racial discrimination disadvantage those affected. But the answer isn’t to discourage women or people of color from pursuing their goals, and neither should your answer be to get defeated before you’ve even begun.
The wonderful thing about programming is that it’s a hard-skill industry. While marketing, for instance, is about being able to understand an audience, tell a story, lead prospects through a funnel, and ultimately measure your performance over time using data you can correlate to actions you’ve taken, programming is the complete opposite. There’s no time lag. There’s no measuring by correlation. In programming either you can solve a problem, or you can’t. Either you can build a project or you can’t. You can prove, in a single interview, on a whiteboard, for everyone to see, whether you have the skills to do the job and whether you can do it faster or more efficiently than the other interviewees. And if you’ve prepared using an intensive like Fullstack, you definitely have the skills and are probably one of their best candidates. So make it your goal to be the best coder you can be, and to demonstrate your skills to every employer in every interview, and to overcome whatever discrimination you might face.
The bottom line is: don’t let cultural norms dictate whether you pursue the education you need to get the job you want. Coding bootcamps are a thing for a reason. You’re definitely not the only “non-traditional” student applying to a coding bootcamp, and you probably won’t be the only one who enrolls.
Cultural norms, in the same way that they color our thoughts about age and career trajectories, color how we think about education. Consider that until about 20 years ago, most cities in the US offered only half-day kindergarten, if that. That we used to structure schools into elementary, junior high, and high. That many of today’s middle-aged Americans learned to drive in public school Drivers Ed class or were split into Home Ec and Woodshop by gender.
Any of these arrangements would seem wild to someone growing up today, but education is always changing, and that’s exactly why we shouldn’t be married to the current paradigm, either. Coding bootcamps are just another way education in America is evolving, and what isn’t a “real degree” now may soon be standard.
Hand-in-hand with the anxiety around coding bootcamp legitimacy is the anxiety around one’s own legitimacy. How can someone spend only 17 weeks learning a subject, then expect to go out into the world and get a job in that field? And worse, once that person does get a job, won’t the other employees and the executive team eventually see them for what they are: an impostor—someone who got lucky, but who doesn’t really belong there?
No matter your circumstances, impostor syndrome is an easy trap to fall into, and it’s not unique to the tech industry in general or to coding bootcamp students in particular. Because tech is always changing, there will always be someone who knows more than you, and that means you’ll always fall short if you’re comparing yourself to everyone else.
So reprogram your brain to compare yourself not to some other person, but to your past self. That way, you’ll always be growing, always challenging yourself, and always able to feel yourself moving forward.
And if you can’t inherently feel your own legitimacy, try proving it to yourself the way you’d prove it to anyone else: using a list of your achievements. Grace Hopper program manager Meg Duffy suggests doing this before you begin any project to remind yourself right from the beginning that you’ve done a lot of good work, and that this project will be yet another achievement on this list once you’re done.
Impostor syndrome is frustrating, and there’s no easy fix, but it doesn’t have to sink your career. Don’t let one (or even several) insecurity-inducing experiences discourage you from pursuing the tech career you want—and certainly don’t allow impostor syndrome to stop you from getting the education that will open so many doors for you.
As Jan so wisely tells Pam Beasley, “There are always a million reasons not to do something.” Early-Office Pam is afraid to put herself out there and take risks—but look what happens when she does. She does the coal walk! She goes to art school! She finally gets together with Jim. Whatever your passion, there will always be reasons—scary, anxiety-inducing, totally valid reasons—not to pursue it. But letting those reasons drive your decision-making is a recipe for unhappiness. So go after what you want. If you need inspiration, see how others have done it. Then learn more about Fullstack Academy and launch your tech career today.