A Few Things You Should Know About Coding Boot Camps

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I’ve spent the last few weeks pacing around my apartment, oscillating between coffee and booze, and trying to overcome some major imposter syndrome after receiving some fantastic news: I’ve been accepted into the third cohort of the Ada Developers Academy, a tuition-free coding school for women. This program is an extreme commitment – you attend onsite training full-time for seven months, then dive into a five-month internship as a programmer. We start this May. So for the next year, I’ll be completely immersed in coding.

As a writer who’s been tangentially involved with tech via previous retail experiences, I’ve written and read a whole lot about the lack of women in STEM fields. I know that underwhelming representation figures have compelled the White House to put together a Women in STEM initiative and that Google sent aspiring female developers to Code School for free. Women made up just 21.4% of the U.S. programming workforce in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Receiving an opportunity to lead change and queer my tech through my future involvement in programming is both thrilling and terrifying.

The training program I’ll be attending is just one of many non-traditional (you don’t get a degree / academic certificate) boot camps and training schools seeking to address the lack of diversity in STEM fields. If you’re thinking about making a career shift or adding new skill sets to your resume, then here are some factors to consider during your search for a boot camp and upcoming application prep.

According to the TV, I should invest in a black leather/vinyl jacket to channel my inner hacker

According to the TV, I should invest in a black leather/vinyl jacket to channel my inner hacker


Gender Inclusion and Identity Awareness

Ada Developers Academy and Hackbright Academy seem to be the only organizations that provide full-time, immersive training to women only.

Other groups, like the Women’s Coding Collective provide single subject courses to female students. And several other boot camps listed here are co-ed, with funding opportunities specifically for women.

Some organizations openly identify themselves as inclusive spaces for trans women. For example, Ada Developers Academy states, “All women (cis and trans) and people with non-binary gender who feel a part of women’s community are encouraged to apply.” Honestly, this aspect really pushed me to apply as someone who identifies as genderqueer and a staunch trans advocate.

While Dev Bootcamp is a co-ed educational program, they have scholarships for “anyone who identifies as female or non-male,” along with veterans and people of color.
It’s exciting to see this inclusive language on application materials, and I do hope to see more programming / hack spaces demonstrate this degree of respect and consideration.


Time Commitments

Boot camps and training programs seem to be divided into two main categories.

Full-time intensive programs: These generally prepare you for a “full-stack programmer” role. This means that you’re gaining experience to work on every aspect of a coding project from user interface to quality assurance or back-end programming.

These full-time programs are exactly that — 40 hours a week spent in a classroom, working on code. Generally, this means that you won’t be able to hold down your job while attending. Most programs, like Code Fellows and Seed Paths run for two months. Then you’ve got longer-term outliers like Dev Bootcamp (4 months) and Ada Developers Academy (one year).

Quitting your job to code full-time is an enormous commitment. I know because I’ve been saying goodbye to all my work commitments as a freelance writer. I’ve spent the last 2.5 years hitting my stride, hustling new writing contracts, coworking with other freelancers here in Seattle, and learning how to be my own boss. To suddenly shuck everything and return to school is giving my brain some serious whiplash. (I’m not quitting the writing life or anything— I don’t think that’s even possible. It just won’t be my job for a while.) However, if you’ve been waiting for a helicopter to come and rescue you from your current job, well, coding school could be the perfect escape!

Ecard by konstancja (Aka how I felt while working in retail.)

Ecard by konstancja (Aka how I felt while working in retail.)

Part-time or single classes: Programs like General Assembly and Women’s Coding Collective offer an array of courses and programs at several points throughout the year. This gives you greater flexibility when it comes to starting points, and since they’re part-time, it’s possible to maintain your current work/personal obligations.


Locations

Since coding boot camps and training programs are popping up everywhere, you might not have to relocate to begin. Since I already live in Seattle, I don’t have to move to attend my upcoming on-site classes. Also, a few coding schools provide distance education online.

Of course, if you’re looking for an excuse to pack up and move, coding school can be a great excuse. Here’s are a few coding boot camp/school locations, in case that strikes your wanderlust:


Costs and Scholarships for Women

Okay, so pricing for coding schools and boot camps seems to be all over the place, from tuition-free to over $15K. The good news: these non-traditional programs may still be cheaper than a full semester of courses at your local college or university. Here is a sampling of some full-tuition rates along with financial aid available to women:

  • Ada Developers Academy: Tuition-free for all students, student loans for living expenses
  • Coding Dojo: $10,500 – $12,500 (based on format), $2,500 Female
  • Developer Scholarship
  • Dev Boot Camp: $12,700 – $13,950 (based on city), $500 scholarship
  • Full Stack Academy: $15,680, $1,000 Ada Lovelace Scholarship for Women
  • General Assembly: Variable tuition based on selected course, $8,000 – $10,000 design and code scholarships for women and POC
  • Hackbright: $15,000 full-time or $3,000 for part-time courses, scholarship opportunities cover up to full tuition + living expenses
  • Women’s Coding Collective: $50 per class

Getting Your Application Together

Let me tell you right now — getting into a coding boot camp or training school can be really freaking hard. Prior to submitting my Ada Developers Academy application, I had applied to a few English graduate programs and a post-baccalaureate in Computer Science (designed for those without previous CS education) as I ping-ponged with indecision between my writing and tech interests. I had come to expect the usual traditional academia required materials: official transcripts, recommendation letters, CV, GPA requirements… the list goes on. Get ready to toss these expectations out the window.

Nothing could have prepared me for the multi-tiered code school applications process. When I journaled about the process, I wrote that it “was like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course designed by Spock.”

Photo credit: Tumblr It was intense.

Photo credit: Tumblr It was intense.

Depending on where you apply, be prepared to face the following trials:

  • Logic puzzles: These are generally designed for people who have little to no experience coding, however logic and analytical reasoning play a huge role in your upcoming coding adventures. You can see some examples on the SeedPaths assessment.
  • In-Person or Skype Interview: Several training programs seem to emphasize face-to-face conversations with a recruiter or with a panel. I’m really comfortable blabbing to groups of strangers since I’ve been performing at Moth StorySLAMS and have led public workshops. But I’m pretty sure I’m the odd one out, since many people fear public speaking more than death. So I definitely recommend practicing mock interviews before jumping into this part.
  • Written Responses: Some organizations want to know why you’re interested in making a career change or adding tech skills to your tool belt. For example, RefactorU wants to know “Describe the single most difficult problem you have ever solved that required both logical reasoning and persistence.” (Actually, I’d like to know your answer to that question, Technostraddlers.)
  • Video Responses: Watch this if you want to see what an interview video response looks like from a successful code school graduate. Liz Rush is from the very first Ada Developers Academy cohort, and she’s gone on to work as a full-stack developer at Siren. She gave an excellent presentation about her programming experiences during a Lesbians Who Tech event hosted at Microsoft HQ. Major thanks to Liz for volunteering her video, since I look like a deer-in-headlights in my own application video.

(Side note: I completely forgot about and later realized is that my only public YouTube post is of me licking my iPhone for this QYT app review, available for the recruiters of the world to see. No matter: it was one of the proudest moments of my life.)


Are you curious about testing your first “Hello, World!” program and queering up tech with mobile and web apps of your own? Let us know in the comments! The recent burst of non-traditional coding schools out there seems to be really driving toward increased female representation, accommodating applicants who have little to no previous tech experience. I’ll be writing all about my own Ada Dev Academy adventures over at my blog if you’d like to follow along!


This has been the one-hundred-twenty-fifth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to websites you have to bookmark to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.


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Queer hapa writer inspired by gadgets. Attending the Ada Developers Academy in the third cohort. Uninterested in quitting her coffee habit. Reads and writes sci-fi and horror. Find her at lorainekv.com or on Twitter.

Loraine has written 33 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. 0

    Wow! Congratulations! I read the article thinking there would be nothing local for me to check out & there is, so thanks for all of the great resources. I’ve been playing a little bit with Arduino stuff on my own but these classes sound awesome!

    It would be cool to hear about your experiences at the academy, once you’re there.

    • 0

      Yeah, it’s really great to see coding schools spread all over the globe. I’m sure if I had written this article over a year ago, the scope would have been pretty limited.

      What city do you live in and what have you been up to with Arduino? I’ve never tried those projects myself but I’ve seen Arduino workshops pop up at the Seattle Public Library and at Metrix Createspace. Maybe I’ll check it out sometime!

      Also have you seen Alley’s 4/20 Arduino project? Hilarious!

      • 0

        I’m working on making a motion activated squirt gun. I’m kindof modifing a little sprinkler head but mostly it’s just me getting soaked.

        Denver has 1 hackerspace that is a pretty terrifying bike ride from where I live & we lost one last year that was pretty cool. I have a super geeky awesome co worker who’s teaching me most things.

        I’ll totally check out the 4/20 hacker project.

  2. 0

    Hackbright also only really takes in people who want to be hired as software engineers – if you have other intentions for learning to code, such as creative uses or entrepreneurship, they’re not interested.

    I have heard of Gray Area (in SF) and School for Poetic Computation (in NY) as being good for artistic people wanting to learn to code. I’m frustrated with Gray Area’s spotty communication skills and had to miss out on the current SfPC cohort due to a schedule clash, but I’d love to try the latter out sometime!

    • 0

      School for Poetic Computation? I LOVE that. Please keep me posted if you go there, Tiara – it sounds fantastic.

      Regarding Hackbright – yeah, it’s difficult to say how interdisciplinary to get during the applications process or what the panels are looking for. During my Ada interview, I blurted out a bunch of things regarding my love for literature, and then I worried that I hadn’t stuck to the subject of coding enough. Although, I figure that most coding schools recognize that folks will be bringing in a variety of skill to the table, which may ultimately influence the professions / projects students land in afterward.

  3. 0

    This is near and dear to me, as I attended one of these in the winter of 2013, and found that it was by far, the best thing that’s every happened to me. I went to Launch Academy in Boston. The experience was ridiculously intense, and it was 3 months of the most productive times of my life.

    I was able to get a job as a software engineer less than a month after I graduated. A year later, I’m making just shy of 4x what I had been making as a waitress before I did the program, and that’s not even taking to account how much I love coding and how much fun I have at work. So…yeah. Big, huge, ginormous fan of these.

    There’s also a bunch of really great options for anyone that’s really interested in trying to learn a bit more about coding before making the monetary or time commitment of one of these programs! Women’s Coding Collective is great, and there are similar things to that depending on where you are! Just search meetup.com for similar sounding groups – there’s often free classes, free exercises, and general ‘code and greets’ hosted by women’s groups.

    Specifically though, Railsbridge is a national organization that puts out free weekend bootcamps to teach people who identify as women how to make their own web applications. I volunteer at the one in Boston whenever I can, it’s really a spectacular program!

    • 0

      ALSO! Go to events! Again, meetup.com is like, fantastic for this as there’s a bunch of tech events going on every week. I go semi-regularly, and have found a community of queer women that I’m super glad to consider my good friends through these events. And just being around other queer women helps a hella lot.

    • 0

      Yes! I was also hoping to hear from Straddlers who have already completed the code school process. Sounds like you’ve been able to put that experience to good use.

      Thanks for sharing your story and for the Railsbridge shoutout – I see that they’ve got a chapter local to me, so I’ll be looking into that.

  4. 0

    As someone who has hired some boot camp graduates, I’ve been very impressed. They’re much more prepared for a professional programming job than someone with a 4 year CS degree (like I have). It’s not a trivial commitment, or a get-rich-easy path, but if you genuinely want to be a software engineer I’d say seriously consider something like this!

  5. 0

    It’s like you read my mind Lorraine — I’ve been hunting around for some coding classes to do online, because not working isn’t an option for me unfortunately.

    Does anyone know of any that are online ‘by correspondence’ style classes, but are in-depth enough to equip you with professional-standard proficiency, not just a ‘general understanding’?

    • 0

      I recently did one of these bootcamps that’s not on the list above, the Software Craftsmanship Guild in Akron Ohio. When I went it was even smaller than it is now. It was a great experience, I worked my ass off and I’m employed as a developer now. I wish I’d been learning things on my own many months before having starting the program though.

      For those who want to learn online I think the best program is an assortment of things. Below are some resources I liked, I put the list together for a friend considering the bootcamp route.

      From my own experience go through the HTML/CSS Codecademy class and then a few of the YouTube tutorials, you’ll have a solid idea how you feel about it after that. Most northeast Ohio programming jobs are in .NET, so Microsoft based, you must know web languages and C# as a foundation.

      http://www.codecademy.com/ – free, good for HTML/CSS and JavaScript, code in their website

      http://teamtreehouse.com/ – free 1 month trial, good for a bunch of things, similar to codecademy, but more project than lesson based

      http://www.w3schools.com/ – free, great resource from reading about all fundamentals, all their examples publish to an interactive tinker and publish enviroment

      http://www.learncs.org/ – free, I’ve heard this is a great resource for learning C#, but I have not used it myself, coding is done in their web portal

      https://www.visualstudio.com/en-US/products/visual-studio-express-vs – free software that most companies use

      http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/C-Sharp-Fundamentals-Development-for-Absolute-Beginners – free, good video series for learning C# and coding in Visual Studio

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpSd41rNK-E&list=PLjZCjpUWUuoD7ex6euiD6tczPmnNtFjxG&index=1 – free, decent YouTube Channel starting from scratch in C#

      • 0

        Dara, this is such a perfect collection of resources. I feel like it’s difficult to gauge the “effectiveness” of online, non-traditional code schools. While new federal regulations requires traditional academia to disclose stuff like gainful employment and graduation rates for professional college programs, I don’t think that’s the case for distance learning code schools (yet, but I might be mistaken).

        Here are some Ruby-specific mini modules I explored in advance because they were recommended on boot camp blogs:

        http://tryruby.org/
        Rails for Zombies

      • 0

        Adding to this – the best tool and resource you will have either as a programmer or a prospective programmer is google. Learning how to search for what you want and what are good and reputable sites is like, literally the most important tool for the job.

        With that said, http://stackoverflow.com/ will become your best friend. Love it. Cherish it.

        Also, I would advise against using w3schools as a tutorial. I use it as a reference but I found for learning it’s actually not entirely helpful (but damn, is their SEO on point). This looks like a good tutorial, though I’ve not given it a try: http://learn.shayhowe.com/

        The best way to really get html and css is to try and replicate the layout of an already existing site. Try and build an autostraddle duplicate once you’ve gotten the hang of it – you’d be surprised at what you can do when you really put some effort into it!

  6. 0

    I’m so glad to see some non-binary recognition just anywhere in science. During my applied stats/coding degree last year I was told at least once a month that gender is a binary variable. I wanted to throw my pen at their faces most of the time. THERE WAS NB PEOPLE IN THE BLOODY SCHOOL. I wrote some very harsh feedback regarding that issue.

  7. 0

    I hope you’ll keep us updated on your experience! I’ve been playing with learning to code in case I don’t want to teach after my PhD (or can’t get hired, for that matter). For now I am looking at it as a plus on my resumé that could be a useful skill to bring to a job other than programming itself, but as I’m really enjoying it who knows? Maybe I’ll want to look at it more seriously. Great to know such programs exist as going back to uni for a CS degree would be as ridiculous as it would be expensive.

    I’ve learned a bit with codeacademy, but just started Udacity’s HTLM and CSS intro and like it a lot better. It takes the approach of having a model of what you want to build and learning the code to get there, which is a lot clearer for me than learning bits of code without a clearer idea of where it will be used.

    I’m also in the middle of their Intro to CS class that teaches basic python. I find both classes very clear, if a bit slow moving and broken down into small enough steps that I can squeeze them in here and there when I find the time.

  8. 0

    Thank you for writing this! I know there are some industry specific boot camps as well. I’ve been looking into Byte Academy in NYC for FinTech. All of the camps seem like amazing opportunities to learn a very useful skill. It’s helpful to know more about what the application process looks like before diving in.

  9. 0

    Sorry about that last comment, my phone is unpredictable and likes to post things without my permission… Anyway, I wanted to say good luck and thank you for the resources! Just under a year ago I took General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive program (a 12 week intensive) with the help of their Opportunity Fund Fellowship. Google’s scholarship for women funded about 85% of the course and it has completely changed my life. It took me a week to land my job as a Full Stack Developer. Can’t wait to hear more about your progress.

  10. 0

    First of all, congrats! 🙂

    I am also trying to steer my career in a coding direction (front-end). The hardest part is probably building up the courage to quit my job and jump into nothingness… For now I’ve been training myself online and applying to entry level jobs with no luck.

    Although I have a master’s degree in Engineering (Electrical & Telecom), which, yes, involves a fair amount of coding training, I do not have a CS education per se. Thing is, I am also planning a geographical move (from BIG city to significantly smaller one), which always means less job opportunities.

    We’ll see if the online/night school classes I plan on registering for will help me in finding a coding job (fingers crossed).

    Good luck to all fellow coding padawans 🙂

  11. 0

    I just finished a coding bootcamp and received a formal job offer today! For anyone in the Southeast, I did The Iron Yard Academy. Just two weeks after graduation and I already have an offer that is much more than I used to make and seems like an absolute dream job for me.

    I will warn you though that these are not an easy way to get rich quick. Lots of people in my class didn’t pick up things quite as quickly or network quite as well during the class to be able to get job opportunities as fast. From previous classes it has taken people up to about 6 months to get jobs post graduation, and these jobs may not be any more high paying than their previous ones. However, if you stick with it, there’s really not a developer out there with 2-3 years of experience that doesn’t have an abundance of job opportunities and pretty good pay.

  12. 0

    Another great organization (FULL DISLCOSURE: I’m starting a chapter in Oakland) is Girl Develop It. It’s an organization that aims to help teach women how to code for affordable rates and scholarships are also often available from the individual city chapters.

  13. 0

    This was a great roundup of bootcamps and resources, and I’m SO excited to read all the comments and see so many fellow bootcamp alums and geekgrrls like me wanting to queer the dev tech space!!

    I’m looking for jobs now that I graduated from Dev Bootcamp, and trying to make some cool projects for queer peeps, I’d love to see more spaces where we take on projects together!

    PS:

    Q- Are you curious about testing your first “Hello, World!” program and queering up tech with mobile and web apps of your own?

    A- YUUUUUUUUSSSSS. Yes, I am.

  14. 0

    If any francophones out there are looking to learn the basics of html/css/bootstrap, I have been really pleased with this course: http://bit.ly/1B8POee from le Wagon. I played with udacity, codeacademy, codesomething else, and felt frustrated by the pace of it. I found this site to be worth the money for a very direct but efficient style. The link there gives you (and me, full disclosure!) 30E off a course with them.

    I suppose it depends on your learning style, but I wanted someone to give me the tool and then let me play with it, no messing around and drawn out explanations to make it excessively clear or jokes to keep me interested. That’s what I got!

    They’ve also been super responsive to my questions. I think their online option is recent so not a million users on the forums all waiting for a response. I plan to take the next course which goes deeper and includes SASS and jQuery and possibly the javascript one after that.

    • 0

      It hadn´t occurred to me that there might be other francophones in this thread 🙂

      Openclassrooms.com remains the best IMHO. Their methods are quite detailed, but the best part is that there is almost always a FREE option! The pace of the course is imposed for the free-riders, but it’s usually reasonable.

      For those who need/would like someone behind the tutorials, there is a Premium Plus package (300EUR, a little expensive for my taste but oh well, you have unlimited access to all courses + eBooks + tutorship program).

      • 0

        Thanks so much for the link! It certainly looks like an interesting option- I just used a coupon I found online to try a free month of basic premium (usually 20E/mo).

        “OpenClassrooms a engagé un processus de reconnaissance de ses certificats par l’État. Une fois ce processus achevé, la reconnaissance sera rétroactive pour toutes les personnes qui auront suivi ces parcours dans les 3 dernières années.”

        and this /\ is certainly interesting, though I have no idea how long such a process would take, having something slightly more official would certainly be a good thing if I look for local jobs instead of remote positions.

        Thanks again for the info!

        • 0

          It will probably take a while for the site’s certifications to be “officially” recognized, but just FYI, Premium access should soon be free for all unemployed people in France 🙂

          « à compter du mois de septembre, tous les demandeurs d’emploi en France auront un accès gratuit, illimité à tous les services numériques d’OpenClassrooms »

          Seeing as this is coming directly from the government, I’m guessing employers in general will soon accept these MOOCs as legit.

          And yes, special summer offer, Premium access for 180€/year! 😀 I’m considering giving it a try, although for now I’m quite satisfied with the free option.

          • 0

            Wow, that is a great sign of recognition, even if more official recognition will take time.

            I think I’m going to stick to monthly since I can skip a month if I am too busy to make use of it (I am supposed to be writing a thesis :p), but I think you could definitely get your money’s worth. What courses have you done?

          • 0

            For now I’m focusing on Java EE courses on OpenClassrooms.

            I am also following some more general web development courses on Udemy. I got 8 of them on on stacksocial recently as a “pay what you want” bundle (the min, was $15). Sale ended a while ago, but it not a bad idea to check back from time to time for more good deals 🙂

            Although the quality of the Udemy courses is quite low comparing to OpenClassrooms, you can find some nice ones. Plus side, if you buy a course you get access for life.

            BTW, if anyone’s interested in Python back-end, there is a Pay What Tou Want: Back-End Developer Course Bundle for $9.96 right now.

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