Jessica Dembe on How to Get the Most out of a Bootcamp

Tell us about yourself

I work as an Associate Technical Consultant at Blackstone Technology Group (@BTGFed). I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Health from the University of Maryland, College Park and I recently graduated from the Front-End Engineering program at The Iron Yard.

My tech related projects include my iFeel app and trying to keep up to speed with JavaScript.  In my free time, I like to cook, try peanut-free restaurants and recipes, and figuring out ways to stay active without being bored.

How did you first get started in your career in tech?

I have always been fascinated by anything digital. I got interested in front-end development after I took a Fundamentals of Graphic Design class at my local community college. After this class, I realized I wanted a career with a mix of design, technology, and functionality.

That is when I started to re-learn HTML and CSS. I realized that I was missing the functionality aspect and I started to learn JavaScript. For a few months, I used as many self-teaching resources as I could find, but found it hard to stay on track.

There is another part to this– I started to work with my former company’s web development team on proposals and became really interested in the work they do. Our director advised me on what I should learn and how I should proceed in regards to self-studying.

He suggested that I look into coding bootcamps. At first, I scoffed at it because the price tag seemed so steep, but realized that it would be the best way to get into the field quickly as I did not have a CS degree.

What is the advantage of attending a bootcamp?

A bootcamp gives you the fundamentals in whatever tech field you want to go to. Bootcamps aren’t just about code–there are data science bootcamps, web design bootcamps, security bootcamps, mobile development bootcamps, etc.

They can help you launch your career in a very short amount of time compared to getting a degree. Which is awesome because not everyone can go to school for a computer science degree for financial or time reasons.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending a bootcamp?

First and foremost, give it a good amount thought. It takes a lot of time and money. The decision shouldn’t be made lightly. For myself, I started considering the idea of attending a bootcamp in April 2016, but I didn’t actually start until October of that same year. I had to consider the money that I would lose once I quit my job to attend bootcamp. I had to think about what I wanted a successful experience to look like, and how I would pay for it all!

Second–consider the tech landscape of where you live or where you want to work. Attend meetups (if you can!) to learn about the the tech community and what is in demand. Let people know that you are thinking about going to a coding bootcamp. This is a great chance to start building up your network before you have to use your network.

If you don’t live in a place where there is a tech scene or if you don’t live where you want to work, leverage online groups, websites and slack channels! This will really help you figure out what you want to learn and what you want to get out of your bootcamp experience.

After you have all that, start looking for bootcamps, but have questions ready about each program. When I was looking at bootcamp programs, I came ready with questions:

  • How long have your instructors been in the field?
  • What does the curriculum look like?
  • What kind of supports do you provide to students after graduation?
  • What has been the job placement rate?

What I’m trying to say is ask ALL of the questions before making a decision.

Coding bootcamps are an investment and you need to feel comfortable about your decision before you sign on the dotted line! I had to be sure that my instructor was about students being successful. I had to be sure that there was a decent alumni network, and that I was interested in what was being taught.

As for what you the reader should be looking for in a coding bootcamp, that is up to you and what you want to do afterwards. Many people want to switch careers. Some people go to a bootcamp so that they can learn what they need to know about tech with the intent of starting a business.

I would definitely say that when you go out and interview bootcamps, talk about how your goals align with what they are teaching. If for some reason the visions don’t not align, then it may not be a match, and that’s okay. Keep looking until you find a fit for you.

What can we do to get the most out of a bootcamp?

Ask questions if you are the least bit lost. My program was a 12-week program and it was very easy for someone to get lost. I made sure that I came in with questions for my instructor. I even asked questions to confirm my understanding of things! Good instructors are there to help you grow during your bootcamp, use them as a resource.

If an assignment seems too easy, don’t be afraid to ask for something more challenging. I remember in my program, we always had the regular challenge along with adventure mode, epic mode, and nightmare mode. If you feel that you finished something that was “easy” don’t be afraid to take on a challenge because this will help you learn something new and help you learn new concepts after you get your first job.

Also, get to know your cohort. Help each other out and get to know them. I say this because some will become your friends. They will also be a part of your professional network. I have passed along job leads to my classmates. You never know how you can help someone and how someone else can help you.

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You found your job immediately after your bootcamp. What advice would you give to bootcamp graduates for finding their first job quickly?

I went to meetups and let it be known that I was a coding bootcamp student who is looking for a job. I mean, that is how I got the job that I have now! So definitely attend meetups and let people know about your story.

Also, get to know other people and their story. You might leave a meetup with a new job lead and potentially a new friend. How cool is that?

I also watched the jobs channel in the slack groups that I am in. I’m on the Women Who Code DC, DCTech, Black Code Collective slack groups and each of them has an active channel that is dedicated to job announcements. I watched every single jobs board regularly and applied to positions that I wanted to have, even if I didn’t meet every single requirement.

What resources did you find most helpful?

Codecademy, Code School, Pramp for preparing for technical interviews, Codewars to build up your problem-solving skills, Reddit is also a good resource. For new coders, I recommend /r/learnprogramming/ and r/webdev/.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Twitter. I have a blog where I do a lot of reflection at jesscancode.com.

 

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  • Jo Sai

    Jesse!!!