How I ended up choosing an online coding bootcamp…

I love meeting other newbies like myself who are learning to code. I can’t help it, but I always have to ask:

Where did you come from? and Where are you going?

It’s funny, I feel like I’ve never heard the same answer twice. It’s truly inspiring how many different types of people are taking a leap of faith and making moves toward a career in technology. Fashion designers, line cooks, marketing managers, writers… and on and on.

So I guess I should say something about myself!

One of my first memories of programming (besides the usual HTML/CSS blog tinkering) was trying to program using econometrics software in college. This was back when I thought I would try to be an econ major. The class was super interesting, something about global economies, and the professor was a famous econ superstar. But… trying to learn to use that econ software broke me. I have never felt so stupid. I ended up dropping the course and switching my major several times, eventually settling on psychology (yep, I’m one of those people). In psychology there was a bit of work with statistics software, but nothing that could truly be considered programming.

In my first “real” job I learned a bit of SQL in order to pull data for analysis. It was a very dry experience that didn’t really have me longing to learn more.

The turning point came at my last job, where I was working with social media data. Despite the high tech industry, social media data analysis can oftentimes be a very manual job. For example, in order to track Twitter trending topics for a client’s product launch, ten employees would sit around for hours, refreshing their browsers for different markets every 5 minutes. That is so messed up!

I knew there had to be a better way, I mean… hello… APIs. So in September of 2014 I decided that I would try to build something to automate the work. I started out learning R (in the hopes of using the twitteR package), and about a month in, on the advice of one of my programmer friends, I switched over to Python.

After about a month or so of learning Python, I hadn’t solved the problem yet, but work put me in contact with another analytics team member in the New York office. He had written some scripts that were helpful for pulling social media data. I was able to work with the scripts, which seems so silly to say now, but this seemed to impress my boss- LOL. My employer offered tuition reimbursement, so I hopped on it and took a Python night class at the local community college. The class was like $46 a credit, so I didn’t need reimbursement, but hey, every little bit helps right? Taking the class was very painful… (Tuesdays, 6pm – 10pm, Jan – May) but after starting the class I improved so much more rapidly than trying to teach myself on my own.

Over the course of the next six months, I built a variety of small but useful Python scripts in order to solve various data analysis problems that we encountered – from  filtering out simple name tagging in Facebook status posts to finding the original URL in a link on a mass scale… Slowly my job shifted more toward the world of “data science.” Oh yeah, and I finished my Twitter Trends project too.

It was awesome, I was getting paid to code, and actually making a difference at work, saving my company both time and money. I went further down the data science rabbit hole and learned what I could online. I even looked into data science grad school programs. However, I found myself wanting to spend even MORE time coding, and less time on the “analyst” part of my job. Maybe data scientist wasn’t the best long term route for me, even though it was the hottest job of 2015.

I took another night course in August of 2015 – this time a one month long introduction to front end web development course at a coding bootcamp around the corner from my office (Monday – Friday 6:30pm – 9:30pm – ouchie).It was fun, so I decided to take the leap and study web development. Hey, all the cool kids are doing it!

I had been hesitant to try a coding bootcamp, but as the years passed and the number of graduates scoring jobs grew, I became more comfortable with the idea. Some people were really making it. The final moment I decided that it might not be a total scam was when I saw on Facebook that a former college friend of mine had just switched careers from journalism to web development. I knew her! And she did it! It seemed real, and attainable.

So I went to work constructing a gigantic spreadsheet of all my feasible bootcamp options. It was so overwhelming, honestly. There were too many choices to make.

  • Full time or part time?
  • In person immersive or online?
  • 12 week program, 6 month program, or self paced?
  • Front end or full stack?
  • Ruby, Python or Javascript?

I hemmed and hawwed. It’s kind of like what people say about having a baby. I was never going to feel “ready” enough to quit my job. For me, I can never have enough money to feel safe. Still, when push came to shove, November was the time for me to quit my job. It just had to happen.

While I prepared to quit my job, I interviewed at a couple of bootcamps in the area, trying to figure out how I would manage the 13 – 18k tuition!!! How much could I safely borrow? Despite having pleasant interviews with several schools, I really didn’t feel 100% about any of these schools. Anyways, at the last minute (October), the Flatiron School announced their Learn Verified program, which was an online web development bootcamp offering a job guarantee! Flatiron was the school my friend went to! Oh! And the price was right!

Curious, I signed up for their ~30 hour free intro to Ruby course, which was a prereq to applying to the program. I found the program’s platform addictive, and the content itself was amusing and in-depth. The intro track was HARD. This was a good sign. Anyways, you know how this turns out. I signed up for Learn Verified.

I started the paid program when it officially launched in November, and while the course has had some bumps along the way, I’ve mostly been happy. I’m learning a ton, and online nature of the course suits my learning style better. I guess we’ll see where it goes, but I’m optimistic.