I completed a coding bootcamp at Le Wagon a few months ago in order to switch to a junior developer position. My takeaways? The most intense and fun times as a student. I was impressed I could learn so much in nine weeks! In this article, I will share my personal experience with Le Wagon - to give you more context - but I’m not preventing you from joining other bootcamps! My goal is to help you to ask yourself the right questions, and find what fits best for YOU.
Hold on… What’s a bootcamp?
I’ll make it short: a coding bootcamp is a short, intensive, and rigorous course of training. It’s not an easy thing, but if you are curious, eager to go back to studies, a bootcamp might help you to go through a career change, without going through a university or private school degree (and spend years on it).
If you are interested in a coding bootcamp but can't decide on the perfect one, there are a few things to take into account and questions to ask yourself.
1. The program's content
Does it correspond to my interest?
When considering a coding bootcamp, you have to think about what you really want to learn, as there are so many paths to go down. Do you want to develop an application? To design one? Or perhaps play with data? Ask yourself concrete questions: What interests me the most? Do you want to discover the hidden side of applications and dig into backend development, or on the visual/user side with frontend? Or both? Or is coding the right field you would like to study? Should it be something else?
I personally was looking for an introduction to fullstack development. Le Wagon offers this in its bootcamp.
2. The tech stack used
Does it match with the technologies you would like to learn?
Yes, developers can learn many, many programming languages, but if you want to start, make sure to do it with the ones you are the most interested in. If you are unsure, I recommend the Developer Survey from Stackoverflow. It gives a very good insight about the technologies developers use today, and can be a starting point for your personal research.
3. The learning format
Would it help? Would I enjoy it?
Let’s face it. A bootcamp is a ‘back to school’ process. Be prepared to have stricter rules and schedules (once again).
I personally really enjoyed university, so it was not a problem. As an example, LeWagon requires you to be 15 minutes early before starting the first lecture of the day. If you are late, or absent, it will be noted by the teacher. If it becomes a habit, you will hear from them.
Commitment during a bootcamp is essential. If it becomes too difficult for you, don’t hesitate to communicate as early as possible.
So what does a day at a coding bootcamp look like?
At Le Wagon (I imagine many bootcamps are similar), you will start the day at 8:45am, with a cup of coffee or tea and chat with your fellow student before the lecture at 9:00am. Usually, it lasts two hours and it’s focused on a single programming concept that you will need to apply later on with exercises.
Then, with a buddy, you have the rest of the day to work on those exercises. If you are both stuck, you are able to ask for a teaching assistant (a former bootcamp graduate). It’s important to mention that they are bootcamp graduates because they empathize with your struggles - simply because they went through the same thing before.
At the end of the day, at around 5:00pm, everyone returns to class for live coding. Here we recap the learnings of the day and few students come to the board and code with the teacher.
So you can see the whole day is packed and it’s important to be in the right mental state for the commitment.
4. The medium
Is it an in-house bootcamp, or online? What fits best to my needs?
What is your current situation? Do you have a choice of bootcamps in your city? Do you feel like learning from time to time, wherever you like? It’s important to take your location and the time dedicated into account. Many cities all over the world offer courses locally.
Personally I wanted to study on-site, and keep this scholar atmosphere. Studying remote is very tempting, but it’s not as motivating and energizing as being with other students and the direct help of teachers.
5. The length of the program
Am I ready to commit X weeks for it?
Coding bootcamps are usually 2-3 months long. If you are able to take long holidays or just leave your current job for it - first, I respect that! It’s not an easy decision. Second, would you be ready to dedicate the time for it?
I personally needed to have a full-time focus on coding, which is the case for most bootcamps available. But there are new options emerging, such as part-time bootcamps, with 2-3 days per week - usually at night - for students who are not able to be there full-time. Le Wagon started it recently, and it lasts 6 months.
6. The pricing
It varies a lot, depending on the country.
Be aware of the payment conditions. Also, according to some, the state is able to help you financially. Make sure to discuss it with each bootcamp you are interested in; they will give you a better insight.
A full-time coding bootcamp at Le Wagon costs 6500 EUR. Other bootcamps can be less or more expensive. It’s an investment, so be sure to spend it on THE ONE ;)
What to expect from a coding bootcamp:
The structure is very school-like: Concepts are explained during a morning lecture, then applied in exercises for the rest of the day, and repeated one last time during a live coding session with the class. I really enjoyed this format, especially if you are not sure where to start and focus on as a self-taught developer.
All-in or nothing
If you choose to take part in a coding bootcamp, be prepared and organise your everyday life according to your studies. It's not an easy period - it's intense and sometimes frustrating, but extremely rewarding and encouraging. Why? Because you are not alone, and you are likely with students who also have no clue about programming as well - in the beginning, at least.
At Le Wagon, I spent 8 to 10 hours a day at the school. I usually did not go out after, because the day is intense and it drains your energy. If you are okay with less parties during weekdays, focus your evening resting (ideally NOT on a screen) and going to sleep early.
I spent my evenings mostly cooking for the next day, which is quite soothing, and gives you time to prepare balanced meals (it was quite important for me, especially because my bootcamp was in the middle of winter, in Berlin!)
This bootcamp was also a great opportunity to meet people from many different backgrounds in one class - some were in marketing, design, administration, sales, banking, education, sport and even art.
This supportive and inclusive environment helped me a lot through the tense moments (you know - when nothing is working because you missed a semi-colon and you can't find it anywhere) in the early stages of becoming a developer.
Today I’m still meeting my buddies, checking on their job hunt, and current projects. Most of them are still in Berlin, and as a former recruiter, I’m also helping them to prepare their CVs, job interviews, and a few of them became teaching assistants themselves.
Making that final decision
So, is it the right thing for you? If you are still asking yourself, it’s probably a first (and good) step to continue your research.
If you are currently working, and your company is open for career change and personal growth, don’t hesitate to ask your manager. Someone switching team, even as a junior, can bring a fresh insight and still know the product well, but from another perspective.
Now bootcamps are getting popular, they develop different options for people to learn (location-wise, time-wise, etc.). And some are recognized by the state and offer financial help, if you are willing to continue your studies, or if you are unemployed.
You can continue your research by checking the top ranked coding bootcamps, and I wish you success in your quest.