Is Coding Boot Camp Worth It?
After publishing a blog post about my experience choosing and preparing for data science boot camp, I have gotten many follow up questions, especially ones about life after boot camp. For these people who are considering boot camp, I am hopeful that these blogs and my YouTube channel will help answer some of these burning questions. Though everyone situations differ, I also give some general advice about going to boot camp.
If you have 12 minutes, you can watch me discuss this topic on my YouTube channel. Alternatively, TLDR/TLDW:
TLDR/TLDW, my top advice to prospective boot campers:
1. Establish connections with the faculty and staff of the boot camps you are considering in order to get a better sense of whether or not it’s what you need/ and to establish trust and communication with those people.
2. Look at the job placement record of the boot camp. If they have placed many people at the company or any companies that you want to work at, then it’s probably a good sign that this boot camp will work for you.
3. I think the boot camp is for people with high drive and discipline, people with plenty of time and energy and people who love to learn and challenge themselves.
Here are my answers to FAQs:
Question #1: Is boot camp worth it?
Yes, my boot camp experience was definitely worth it. I am very satisfied with the education and mentorships I received. I found a job after a 2-month period of being unemployed. To be transparent, I received a large amount of financial assistance, which also reduced the stress and uncertainty of attending a costly program. My situation at the time when I attended boot camp afforded me the time, energy and focus to fully engage in the curriculum and I learned a lot. But I think the question about the worth or value of any educational endeavor depends on your goals. Consequently, without having specific goals, the question of value is hard to determine. If you plan to attend a boot camp in order to get a 6-figure job (right after finishing), then you will be disappointed. But to expect that 6-figure job after 5 or more years on the job is more realistic. Most boot camps promise to deliver a job after you graduate, so if this is what you want/need, then compare boot camps to traditional education as well as on the job training and self-teaching. Boot camps are the best option among these paths for getting into a job in a tech field quickly and effectively.
Question #2: Are you happy with your job?
Yes, I am very happy with my current job, but it took me some time to get here. My first two jobs were contractor positions that I was not in love with. In my first job, I was working on Excel VBA scripts. Eventually, I left this job and I took an opportunity to work at a larger company because I saw better career opportunities there. My second job was on a design team doing front end development and data visualization work. I liked this work but it also wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long run and I only used this opportunity in order to get my foot in the door at this company. I was then able to switch teams at this same company and work on a data analytics team. I was working on data visualizations and I enjoyed the work a lot. But there were some very repetitive and mundane aspects of this job. Recently, I was able to switch to another team, which is data engineering work. I love my team and boss and being able to learn tools and new skills. I’m also being supported/groomed into becoming a machine learning engineer or data scientist in this position. So I am very pleased with this.
Question 3: Do you use skills you learned from boot camp in your job?
Yes, I use some things like Jupyter notebooks, PySpark, Tableau in my current job and also general knowledge of machine learning models is very helpful because I work on operationalizing models. However, personally, I don’t believe it is possible for your first job to match 100% with all the technical skills you learn at a boot camp. First of all, boot camp teaches either a generalized set of skills or else a highly specific software/technique. Any given job in the tech industry will never 100% match with that you study in boot camp because lots of jobs are either a very specific role, i.e. Tableau developer or a React developer, or else a generalized role in which the tech stack (group of technologies that a company/person uses) will vary widely. Don’t get hung up on technical tools. They vary too widely and change too often.
Question 4: Dislikes about your job?
I disliked repetitive and mundane tasks in previous jobs. I dislike the politics of corporate work and the draining aspects of professional development in this setting (i.e. meetings).
Question 5: How to prepare for boot camp?
Here’s the blog post to learn more about how to choose and prepare for data science boot camp: https://jessejruiz.com/2019/02/18/tips-for-choosing-and-funding-a-coding-bootcamp-2/
Question 6: What to study to supplement learning during and after boot camp?
During boot camp, I personally did not do a lot of extra work. I needed to take care of my physical and mental health so I limited my time online. I actively engaged in all of the curriculum during the boot camp, and I believe that as long as you do this, you should be okay. Towards the middle and end of the boot camp, I started applying to jobs and this took up a lot of time. I tried studying and completing coding challenges on popular websites but I was easily frustrated with them and didn’t spend a lot of time on this. The only thing that I truly would recommend in terms of extra work during boot camp is cultivating projects and skills in your desired specialization. For me, this was data visualization.
After boot camp, I continued to apply to jobs and started to work on personal projects. This was a lot of work in itself and probably THE HARDEST part of boot camp. I.e. right after graduating is the most difficult part because of the incredible uncertainty and absolute frustration with an inadequate and unfair HR/job interviewing paradigm. But I kept myself sane by focusing on my health and physical fitness. I developed two small data visualization projects and spent most of my time applying to jobs. It’s hard but sticking to a scheduled routine helps as well.
I am hopeful that this helped answer some questions regarding coding (data science) boot camps. Though everyone situations differ, I think that this route is good to consider if you want to quickly launch a new career and if you have the time/energy/focus to commit to intense study. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact me at email@example.com.