Advice for coding bootcamp graduates

2017-02-21 4 min read

    Coding bootcamps are increasingly popular and I’ve seen a large number of resumes come across my desk so wanted to share my perspective and offer some advice. I think it’s great that more people are learning to code. At the same time there’s a lot of volume and based on a few months it’s difficult to stand out, especially as more and more bootcamps spring up. First off, I respect the hell out of people taking the leap. It takes a lot of effort to stop what you were doing and pursue a completely different career track. It’s not easy and already sends a signal that you’re motivated and willing to grow your skills. Below are a few other ways to help improve your odds of getting hired. Most of these are relevant even if you’re not coming from a bootcamp so read on if interested.

    • Leverage your prior experience. Everyone comes into a bootcamp with their own set of experiences and a good way to stand out from the crowd is to leverage that experience in a future role. Many companies would be willing to take on someone less experienced in coding if they make up for it with business and industry context. If your worked as an architect why apply to every other startup? Instead apply to software companies serving the architecture field or potentially technical roles at an architecture firm. No matter what your prior experience was there should be a company that would benefit from that prior knowledge and coding experience.
    • Do a personal project outside of the bootcamp. Bootcamp projects require you to do projects and are typically done with teams so it’s tough to know how much of that was done by you versus others. In addition, mentors helped so the projects aren’t an accurate barometer of your skill. A way to combat that is to do a project entirely on your own outside of the bootcamp and explicitly call it out on your resume. Bonus points for having it on GitHub with an ongoing stream of commits and even more bonus points for having it up and running at a live link.
    • Commit to open source. Another way to make up for the group project is to commit to an open source project. It shows that you’re familiar with version control tools and can code well enough to have your code accepted into an open source project. More importantly, it shows you’re serious about improving as a developer.
    • Understand your application funnel. A typical application flow is you see a job listing, submit your resume, have a quick phone screen, do a take home exercise, and then visit the office for an in-person interview. Knowing this you should understand your stats at different points in the funnel. Are you not getting to the phone screen? Work on your resume. Are you not getting invited for the in person? Focus more on your code test. By knowing these numbers you can concentrate on your weakest areas.
    • Ask for feedback. A simple and easy way to improve is to ask for feedback. Most of the time you won’t get anything but when you do it’s well worth it given it’s such little effort. Showing humility and a desire to improve can work wonders. Most people understand where you’re coming from and want to help.
    • Revisit prior interview questions and exercises. The job hunting process can be exhausting but the benefit is that you get to go through the gauntlet and collect a ton of questions and coding exercises. A good way to gauge how much you’re growing is to go over some of the prior questions and exercises and take another shot at them. If you end up repeating a take home code test and have the same implementation as you did a month ago it indicates you haven’t improved enough and need to rethink your approach. On the other hand, a cleaner and more expressive attempt is an indicator that you’re improving.

    I hope these tips helped but the general idea is that having a bootcamp on its own is not enough. You need to be thinking of ways to differentiate yourself while constantly improving your skill and craft.