Should You Attend a Developer Bootcamp?

May 26, 2018


In my experience mentoring emerging developers in the tech community, I run into one question over and over:

“What (if any) bootcamp should I attend?

While I believe that developer bootcamps have their place (and are, in fact, an excellent alternative to a multi-year degree program at a traditional university), I know for a fact that they aren’t a requirement for someone seeking to make a career transition into development. How do I know this? Because I did it.

I moved from a career in a completely different industry to a career as a full-time Front End developer without attending a college or boot camp. I had a few great folks who fielded questions for me and offered excellent advice, but no actual mentor.

I don’t have anything against boot camps per say; in fact I briefly considered attending one, but as the sole income-earner in a family with kids I just couldn’t justify the cost and the need to miss work for months to attend an in-person boot camp.

What’s the secret? How did I transition careers without attending a structured program? Well,first let’s consider what a bootcamp provides; after all, there are all kinds of resources for learning web development that are available for free or a minimal cost online.

Here’s what you’re paying for in a bootcamp:

1. An environment that encourages you to focus on learning

2. A community to learn along with

3. A clear road map of what you should be learning

4. Mentoring and guidance from instructors

5. A network (and hopefully job leads) in the local area

My thought process was simply this- would I, and could I, replicate those things? If so, would it be worth what I would pay to go to a boot camp? For me, the answer was yes.

The decision I made isn’t for everyone. I think well-run development boot camps have a great deal to offer, especially if you learn best in a classroom-type setting. But for me, it wasn’t the best fit, and I’m glad to have gone through the effort of learning on my own.

In a future post I’ll explore the strategy I pursued over 5 months of self-teaching that brought me to my first development role.

John D Potts

John D Potts

Web developer and speaker in Charlotte, NC.