Coding Bootcamps

I’ve been hearing more about them amongst general populace recently, e.g., at a birthday party yesterday, relative of friend said was entering one soon, and their friends were telling them it is a scam, like a modern version of ITT Tech (for-profit vocational college that lives on taxpayer subsidized student loans). I know people have been saying coding bootcamps are a bubble for awhile now, and they have highly variable reputations. There’s a bill to expand US military veteran benefits to cover more coding bootcamps. I’m curious what the talkgroup community thinks of bootcamps? Are some amazingly awesome? Are there tons of scams? Does saying something like “bootcamps are the best way to learn to code” make one seem hip and insightful, or delusional and hucksterish?

I’m putting this in ‘digital safety’ because I think part of the appeal of coding bootcamps is probably about hoping to achieve financial safety in a world being eaten by software, but the scam potential endangers this and other aspects of safety, if the hope is even realistic to begin with.

Also, this makes me think of another question: how are coding bootcamps’ records for safety and inclusion of instructors and students? Are they bro scenes or do they work for all? Presumably a mix, but what’s the overall trend and impact?

I’ve wondered the same thing, but I don’t know anyone having attended, let alone succeeded or failed at hitting whatever hiring goals they are promised. And I guess that wraps up my observations: all of them seemed for-profit-y scammy to me.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to talk anyone out of a coding bootcamp, but I’ve had that conversation many times with people about ITT-type places.

It really sucks, because I don’t have an alternative. I was a homeless teen when I got my first IT job, and I learned everything as I went. So I don’t know what paths folks have to learn knowledge skills. Community college? Certification?

I just spent a week learning enough about npm, yarn, grunt, gulp and various sass frameworks, enough to debug others’ work by eye. And I do mean a week, like 15 hours a day for 7+ days. I have a lot of knowledge to build on, but each time I gain a level in some skill it was because I had time. I don’t know how that translates in a coding bootcamp.

Anyone here done one? I will ping the usual suspects, where my techies at?!

((They’re @judytuna, @russ, and @tim.))

I have a friend who took a bootcamp and had a good experience. He’s a product manager though, so for him it was more about building empathy with the software development process.

I think bootcamps can provide a couple of different things whether or not the job matching part is a scam:

  • Practice working on teams with difficult people.
  • A base-layer of knowledge to build on. The learning process that Maiki describes above mirrors my own. But I’ve met lots of people who are interested in tech, but can’t do that kind of learning. I don’t really know why. It’s easy to dismiss them as people who are just unable to tech. But all of these skills are learnable. So if you don’t have the base layer you need to bootstrap, maybe a bootcamp will help crack it open.
  • An accelerated intro to whatever flavor of the month is winning the start up wars
  • A way to build a tiny starter network of tech people

I think there is a big mix of cultures, and I’m equally sure that if you prioritize equity and justice you’re going to have trouble finding something you’re enthusiastic about.

Finding a job is mostly about having a good network. So, what are some other ways to learn how to do things and build a network?

  • Contribute to an open source project. Same issue with culture, but some projects are friendly to beginners and make it possible to find mentors. You can start with documentation and code reviews.
  • Join a hackerspace.
  • Go to meetups - coding meetups often have a workshop session where you can ask for help for dumb questions and meet people.
  • Volunteer at conferences.
  • Woodshed online, maybe with a group of people -,,

I bet you’ll get more out of your bootcamp experience if you exhaust all of those options first, and are still interested in a career as a dev, before you take your loans out. And that means that, yeah, it’s basically ITT. I’ve worked with some really bright people who did ITT. But they were bright going in.

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I heartily agree with this. I’ve done a fair amount of interviews for new devs at my day job, my observations match what you’re saying.

We had a similar discussion a couple years ago on TG:

Since then, I have found two devs who went into the class with a passion to learn it, and sucked everything out of it that they could, and they are doing well now.

From what I hear it’s similar. It is pretty intensive X weeks of learning. But again, if a person is only interested in it for the money, I don’t think they’ll be successful. Someone who wants to learn it because they are interested will definitely get something out of a bootcamp. I am not sure if it is more than what you’d get spending the same amount of time self-learning (if the person enjoys that style of learning)

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That’s a really interesting point, and is likely the most valuable aspect of a bootcamp, all other paths considered. I kinda like intentional gatherings of people with similar goals, and I find it difficult to find myself.

I don’t know any developers, so I always feel like a jerk when I pass up on a project and honestly have no one to refer. I don’t know any gamers, tabletop or online, so I always play MMOs alone. I am tentatively polyamorous, but avoid showing up to poly events.

We are discussing coding bootcamps to determine if they are the descendant of for-profit educational scams, but I would hope it would provide a social lab for folks to learn from others. And I kinda wish we had bootcamps for all kinds of things (from the prior paragraph).

Also, I wish we came up with a better name…

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I’m in a similar boat. I’ve passed on three smaller projects that weren’t a good fit for me, but would be great possibilities for a newer dev.

I agree. The word lab has such potential, but it doesn’t quite tie in right.

I agree with your agreement.

Hey @mlinksva! I have now worked at two bootcamps.

I am currently the Technical Apprenticeship Program Manager at Techtonica, a free six-month software apprenticeship for women and non-binary adults from low-income backgrounds in the sfbay. We pay participants a living stipend every month so they can focus on coding full-time. Participants never pay anything to us, ever. Techtonica’s a non-profit that gets donations from individuals and sponsorships from (usually for-profit) companies and organizations. Advocate-level sponsorship includes the opportunity and obligation to hire one of our current cohort at the end of the six month initial apprenticeship (where they’re with me 9-6 every day learning to code!), for a term of 3-6 months, hopefully at the end of which they’ll convert to full-time employees.

The scam potential for bootcamps is extremely large. I will never work at a for-profit bootcamp (especially one that targets underserved populations) again. I have a lot more to say about this whole thing.