Coding Bootcamps

Originally posted on thenextweb

As confidence continues to wane in the traditional college experience, coding bootcamps are picking up steam. It’s easy to see the appeal. Rather than graduating with untold thousands of dollars in debt, students can instead elect to spend as little as $5,000 and attend class for just six weeks.

As of last year, 95 full-time coding bootcamps grossed some $266 million in revenue and graduated an estimated 22,000 new developers — up from just 2,000 in 2003, according to Course Report.

It’s big business, and only getting bigger.

But according to at least one hiring manager, its graduates may not be getting all of the skills they need to thrive. According to software developer and ex-Googler Ross Williamson:

The problem I see with the bootcamp graduates is that they lack ability in Big-O analysis. A buddy of mine just went through one of the bigger ones, and he told me that they spent about a week on Big-O. They just don’t have time to cover it in depth.

Big-O analysis is used in computer science to describe both the complexity and performance of an algorithm. It maps the execution time required (or space used) on a disk when running the algorithm. For non-coder types, it’s also largely unimportant.

What is important, however, is that Big-O is often used to quantify ability, particularly in problem solving and executing on tougher design challenges.

There’s a silver lining, though.

Williamson believes many coding bootcamps to provide an adequate amount of education for a junior developer, but each graduate should take steps to further their education — a trait recruiters are looking for anyway — by taking just two more courses: Data Structures and Algorithms, and Probability and Statistics.

Taking both at a community college or online adds minimal expense to the bootcamp, and should move the student into a job they’d be able to perform at the level of a computer science graduate, says Williamson.

Advice for coding bootcamps graduates

Originally posted on thinkfaster

I want to start off this article being very clear: I am 100% pro coding bootcamp. I think they are fantastic ideas, and I think they make more sense than getting a computer science degree later in your career. You’d have to pay a truckload and spend 4 years at a traditional university.

The bootcamp is faster and cheaper, and if you take one of the 6 month programs, you’ll get a similar amount of experience as in an undergrad curriculum. You don’t have to worry about all the non-CS classes a university would make you take.

So if you get out of college and you’re questioning the marketability of your degree, or if you’ve never been to college, a coding bootcamp is something to consider.

That all being said, I’m also a hiring manager on a web team, and I’ve been trying to hire people nonstop for the last couple of years. We have onsite interviews where we make candidates solve toy problems on the whiteboard, do big-O analysis, and show us their design skills.

You could argue that our interview process is problematic, along with everyone else’s, but that’s not the point of this article. Right now we don’t have a better way, and my point here is not to re-invent how we hire people. It’s just to report on what I see.

We’re also happy to hire junior developers, either right out of school or right out of a coding bootcamp.

The problem I see with the bootcamp graduates is that they lack ability in Big-O analysis. A buddy of mine just went through one of the bigger ones, and he told me that they spent about a week on Big-O. They just don’t have time to cover it in depth.

Look, I understand that you rarely have to analyze code on the job, and some would consider these exercises only academic. But if you can’t tell the difference between O(n) and O(n²), there are going to be times when that matters. And if you can’t do that, we’re going to question your design skills and your problem solving ability. And then we’re going to be reluctant to trust you with the tougher engineering challenges that we see every day.

So for our core engineer roles, we still lean towards graduates of engineering programs. On average in my interviews, they perform better, both in problem solving, and in Big-O analysis.

But I don’t think this has to be the case.

A coding bootcamp person could perform as well as a CS graduate if he or she took 2 more courses:

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms
  2. Probability and Statistics.

You could take them at either a community college or online for minimal expense.

Now, I realize that most of you want jobs, and you want jobs right now. You probably had to quit a job to go take the coding bootcamp, and supporting yourself for 6 months while you’re doing that is no easy feat. If you had to take 2 additional courses, that would be more time spent supporting yourself with no income.

So maybe it makes more sense to take any coding job you can get, and do those 2 additional courses in your free time. This assumes that you eventually want the types of jobs that usually go to CS graduates. If you don’t care, then don’t bother.

Furthermore, once you take the additional courses, make sure you put them on your resumé. We love to see lifelong learners, and someone who had the wherewithal and discipline to take additional courses is going to stand out.

I’m just telling you what hiring managers like me are looking for, and I’ve talked to many other hiring managers who say the same things.

Yes you can get some coding jobs after a coding bootcamp, but if you want the ability to jump anywhere in the IT marketplace, you have to have those foundational skills.

So I think that coding bootcamps are a great concept. We need coders, badly, and I think it’s a great opportunity for people who want to try a new career. They just need a little bit of work before they’ll be able to perform at the level of a CS graduate.