Deciding on Coding Bootcamp

Last August I decided to make a big switch and start a life in the wild west that is the tech industry. Mechanical engineering and manufacturing weren’t for me, and I realized the projects I enjoyed the most in college might actually get me paid. There was even a chance I’d get to ride off into the sunset on my very own unicorn.

I’ve been asked by curious peers, skeptical career counselors, and bewildered parents about why I decided to forgo a job offer at Tesla Motors and instead start down a path with relatively little evidence of success. Hopefully my story will shed a little light on the growing industry of tech bootcamps and maybe even convince a few of you to follow me.

After interning for two summers at Tesla Motors, an amazing place to work and full of brilliant people, I found I was most excited and engaged when I had to write some code. Despite spending most nights and weekends working through tutorials on Swift and Python, I didn’t have the technical chops to be even close to employable, so I decided that I needed to get a degree.

My initial thought was to get a master’s in computer science, but I quickly realized that most MS programs were designed for students who had gotten a BS in CS. To even apply to USC’s program designed specifically for non-CS scientists and engineers I would have to take an extra quarter of CS classes. Furthermore, I began to see some signs that an academic degree might not be the best way forward if I didn’t want to get into research.

So I began to look for some alternatives. The first was to study on my own using I had a free year’s worth of membership after graduating from UCLA, but I really didn’t know what skills I should be learning or what my timeline might be. Seeing self study as another dead end, I finally started looking seriously into coding bootcamps.

I found Hack Reactor’s site first, but I also looked into MakerSquare and Dev Bootcamp. Needless to say, I was hesitant to believe their average graduate salary of $105k and 99% hiring rate. Especially if it would cost $18k in tuition to find out.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 3.14.15 PM
From Hack Reactor’s website. The asterisks were scary.

Luckily my brother was able to put me in contact with his high school friend Albrey Brown, a Hack Reactor graduate and founder of Telegraph Academy, a coding school for people underrepresented in the tech industry.

Albrey convinced me that these schools, or at least Hack Reactor and Telegraph academy, can back up their numbers. He explained that they don’t just let everyone one in – their 3% (now 6%) acceptance rate is lower than even the most selective colleges. Hack Reactor and Telegraph Academy depend on the success of their graduates to maintain the crazy numbers they put on their websites, so they only accept people with the talent and passion to be successful.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 3.15.11 PM
Actually they weren’t that scary.

So I decided to take the plunge and submit an application to Hack reactor. I would find out later that this was one of the best decisions of my life, but that I would also be working my ass off for 13 hours a day, 6 days a week and having a great time doing it. If you’re one of my curious peers or even a skeptical career counselor looking to change directions, I encourage you to just apply.

Applying is free, you won’t pay a dime until you’re committed to going, and you’ll have a couple of months before your interview if you want to think about it some more. Even if you decide not to go, I guarantee you’ll learn a bit about javascript along the way.

Still not convinced that coding bootcamp is for you? Good. Do your own research and take everything with a grain of salt. Reach out to companies you might want to work for and talk to graduates of the programs you are considering. This was a big life decision into uncharted territory for me, and I hope you can make your way into uncharted territory too.

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