If you want to pursue a career in software development/programming, Tech Elevator is a great place to help you reach that goal. It’s not cheap (no bootcamp really is) and it’s not easy (harder than any semester I experienced in university),... Read More
First off, I’ll tell you a little about myself (Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t care about me…it’s fine…I get it.) in hopes that you’ll see that you don’t need to be a computer whiz with a technical background to be successful in the bootcamp or to break into this career field. I took 2 years of Computer Aided Drafting courses in high school, so I was comfortable with technology but I didn’t know anything about programming. I went on to college where I earned a bachelor’s degree in business. After graduation, I spent a few years as a Transportation Manager. After doing the same thing for a while, I reached a point where I got the urge to learn something new, so I enrolled in a Web Development course at a community college. I really enjoyed it, so I started looking at ways to make a career out of it but all of the educational routes looked like they would take 2-4 years since I was a business major and didn’t have many of the pre-requisites. I didn’t have the time to start college all over. That’s when I learned about coding/programming/dev bootcamps. I’m from Cleveland, so I was really surprised when I found that there were multiple bootcamps in the area. I visited Tech Elevator and another bootcamp in the area and came to the conclusion that Tech Elevator was the best fit for me. The deciding factors for me were the instructor and the focus on developing the soft skills needed to land a job (no matter how much I hated the soft skills…I knew that it was a weak point for me that I wanted/needed to work on).
Now let’s talk about the bootcamp. First of all, I think it’s really important to visit a bootcamp in-person so you can actually meet the people that will be teaching you and guiding you through this change in your career and to see the space where you’re going to be learning. You’re going to spend a lot of time in this facility with these people. With that being said, I felt very fortunate to be taught by an instructor that was so knowledgeable and experienced (lookin’ at you David Wintrich). There was also great support from Josh, Craig, Terry, Andria, Anthony, and Carol. The facilities and equipment provided at the Cleveland campus were great and I’m sure that quality will be continued in Columbus.
The course itself was great. We would start the day with a quick quiz so that the instructor could get an idea of our grasp on the previous day’s material. After reviewing the quiz, we would review anything else anybody had questions about, whether it was from the day before or 3 weeks ago. After reviewing, we would typically have lecture until lunch time. After lunch we would have hands-on work for the rest of the day. Sometimes we would work on our own, but we usually had a partner and did a lot of pair-programming (“Pair programming” is a practice where two programmers sit next to each other and work on code. The “driver” does the typing and the “navigator” watches over the code as it’s typed. The two programmers bounce ideas off of each other and they frequently switch roles.) Along with the hands-on work, you’ll often be assigned reading. Sometimes you’ll finish your work by 4:30 or 5:00pm, but you should really expect to put in more hours at night and on the weekends. The course was broken up into “modules” that were a few weeks long. After each module, we would complete a “mini-capstone” project where we would have a chance to build a small application that would encompass the material from that module and any previous modules. This was a good build up to the final capstone project which we got to work on for the final 2 weeks of the course before presenting them to our peers and families at the graduation ceremony.
I went to what I consider to be an academically strong university before I attended Tech Elevator. I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, but rather I want to give a baseline to others who have already attended a university. This program required more time and effort than any semester I ever experienced during my undergrad studies. They say that this program is like “drinking from a fire hose”. Sometimes it’s going to make you feel like you got hit by the fire truck after you’ve had your little drink. If you’re like me, you’re going to be uncomfortable, but it really is a good test of mental toughness. It shows you how much you can really do when you push yourself to the limit.
A great benefit of the program was all of the career assistance that was provided. Each week we had an employer come in to speak to us about their company and we frequently had guest speakers talking to us about topics ranging from LinkedIn profiles to emotional intelligence. The biggest benefit to me was the technical interview practice and the Employer Matchmaking event. The technical interview practice starts with a mock technical interview with one of the instructors and then moves on to a mock technical interview with a volunteer from a local tech company. The reason this was so great for me is that I felt like I flopped on this mock interview, but it was ok cause you’re being given a safe place to fail and the person interviewing you will give you a lot of feedback. After that practice interview, I pretty much knew what I needed to focus on and I felt so much more comfortable. I know that it helped me because I had nothing but positive feedback from all of my real technical interviews. The Employer Matchmaking event was a day where 20+ employers came in and held 30-minute interviews all day. I had 9 one-on-one interviews in a day and while it was kind of scary at first, I had a lot of fun and ultimately met my future employer (we’re doing great, thanks for asking).
Here’s the part you are probably most concerned about… I ended up with 3 job offers (2 before the bootcamp even ended). I actually had to end the interview process with another company and I had pretty much stopped applying for jobs after I received my first offer (I’m not suggesting you do the same, I’m just saying I wasn’t struggling to find people that wanted to give me a shot). One of my offers came from a company outside of Tech Elevator’s hiring network and the company wasn’t even aware of the bootcamp, so I think that’s a pretty good indicator that I was equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to land a job. Another interesting point is that although I was in the Java cohort, I ended up taking a C#/.NET job. So you’re going to learn the language for the course you enroll in, but that won’t necessarily pigeon hole you into that language because you’re going to learn the principles of Object Oriented Programming and you’re going to “learn how to learn” programming languages. You’re not just buying a fast-pass to a job though…you’re going to have to put a lot of blood, sweat, and coffee into this.
I realize this is a lot of information and that some of it might sound intimidating, but if you put in the work and you really WANT to do this, everything will be just fine.
Do everything. Read every page you’re assigned to read. Complete every project. Keep up with the work… you don’t want to fall behind. When you get stuck on something, set a limit for how long you will spin your wheels before asking for help. You’ll learn a lot by trying to figure out problems on your own, but there’s no point in spending 4 hours on one little problem. Take advantage of being surrounded by really smart people. Stick around or meet up after class with classmates to do work together. Do your own work, then compare with your classmate and talk to them about how/why they solved the problem the way they did. Give yourself some time to relax. The class material is important, but kicking ass on the ping pong table is also important. Enjoy the experience, because you probably won’t ever do anything like this again!