I’m about to turn 48 years old. My child is about to finish high school. I’ve worked in retail for over 20 years, with the majority of that time spent in retail management. I enjoy working with computers and have been looking for a means to get away from retail. It’s time to embark on a new chapter in my professional life.
I initially heard about Java Development Bootcamps on TikTok, applied to one within a few days, and had a video interview the following week. I was admitted by the end of October. In mid-November, I finished my pre-work through SoloLearn and received a Java Course Certificate of Completion.
February/March 2022: Intro to Programming Module 1
I finished 8 out of 31 weeks in a Java Development Bootcamp, two and a half months after completing my pre-work. Here are some things I wish I’d understood before enrolling:
- Before you begin, you should have a basic understanding of coding. Despite having finished the pre-work, I felt unprepared. In my opinion, Bootcamps are not recommended for total beginners, no matter what they tell you during their virtual open house.
- Bootcamps require a significant amount of time to complete. I was told that learning to code would take between 18 and 25 hours per week, plus Zoom meetings. Try doubling that number. This isn’t a course that can be done in your spare time. It will take up ALL of your time. Expect to work long hours to meet your deadlines. Anticipate feeling overwhelmed by the course if you already work a full or part-time job, or if you have family obligations.
- Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! I spent 5 hours in mandated Zoom sessions plus “voluntary meetings” most weeks. Three or more days per week were taken up by two Technical Squad Meetings, a Technical Coaching Session, and a Professional Coaching Session. Once we began pair-programming, we had to coordinate those meetings, which took another 3 to 5 hours. Get a good camera and microphone because you’ll need them.
- Know your tools. Use the tutorials found in your IDE (Integrated Development Environment.) For example, IntelliJ IDEA contains 40 lessons on how to use their software, plus YouTube videos.
- You will learn Programming, but it will be at a rapid rate. Each week, you should expect to learn 2-3 new concepts. Last week, for example, we learned about Polymorphism, Inheritance Management, and Unit Testing with JUnit. Quizzes, lectures, Zoom meetings, tutorials, and exercises were required for each subject. Aside from that, we also had a pair-programming task to complete: TEams (Project Management Software.) You would be correct if you thought this was a difficult week.
- Take a screenshot of all of your work and save it to a folder. I was never late and completed all of my assignments on time while I was enrolled in the program. I did, however, have to present proof with time and datestamps on several occasions. A screenshot is worth a thousand words.
- If you’re not looking ahead, you will fall behind. You must look ahead in order to anticipate and plan out your itinerary. Believe me, you don’t want to get an unexpected email from HackerRank (thanks to your trusty Bootcamp) with a mandatory timed quiz before you’ve had a chance to look around HackerRack’s site.
- Expect to hear the phrase, “That’s what Google is for,” about a million times.
- Expect to learn the majority of the Bootcamp course through Google, YouTube, and PDF Books rather than strictly the materials provided. Bootcamps provide structure and support, but you are still essentially self-taught.
- Bootcamps are not cheap. Even if you don’t have to pay anything until you land a job that pays $50,000 or more per year, only you can decide whether this is a good deal for you. This deferral payment plan, for example, was available at the Bootcamp where I registered. You paid $350 every month for 24 months once you start your career in tech. That works out to $8,400, but I’ve seen Bootcamps that cost 3 times this amount. At $8,400, a 31-week course should provide $271 of value in materials and support each week.
- It’s possible that your instructors are also inexperienced. Two of my Technical Trainers had only graduated a year prior from the same Bootcamp I attended before they began teaching. Neither instructor had worked in tech prior to this.
- Is it Imposter Syndrome or simply a lack of knowledge? Be prepared for some gaslighting as you run through the meat grinder, learning new concepts before fully comprehending the previous lessons.
I am currently no longer enrolled in a Java Development Bootcamp owing to personal considerations. A deferral was granted until September 2022. In addition to Java, the rest of my cohort will be learning SQL, C#, HTTP, CSS, and HTML over the next 24 weeks.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to take a more in-depth approach to studying Java. I’ve also started a Python course that I’m really enjoying.
Here is a sample of some of the resources I am using going forward: