I teach a boot camp that teaches people with no background in programming to be professional software developers. We have both a full-time and a part-time boot camp. The full-time is 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 11 weeks while the part-time is two evenings during the week and 7 hours on Saturday for 25 weeks.
One of the common questions we get from some people, especially younger people, is, “Should I take the C# or the Java boot camp?” Mostly I teach the C# boot camp, but my response to them is, “Take the next one!“
What companies are looking for?
Companies that hire boot camp graduates are taking a leap of faith because grads don’t have any experience actually doing the work. I’ve talked to the people that do the hiring for companies and with very few exceptions they tell me that they don’t care as much about which language the grads have learned. Instead they are more interested in people with a strong motivation for programming, whether they know the concepts of programming, and can they figure out how to do things they’ve never done before.
A strong motivation to program
Because boot camp grads have no experience, companies want to hire those that are so motivated by programming that they’ll do it even when they don’t have to. They create their own projects to learn new things and improve their skills. I had one manager from a large company tell me that when they interview boot camp grads, they ask what they’ve done since graduating from the boot camp. If the person has not been programming since graduation, it becomes a very short interview. The company doesn’t care what the person has done or what language they’ve used; they just want to hear that the person has been programming.
Knows the concepts of programming
In my previous years as a software development manager, whenever I’d interview someone with little experience, I would ask them this question, “Tell me how you would programmatically sum all the numbers between 1 and 50 that were evenly divisible by 3 or 7?” I wanted to hear their thought process in English, but it was ok if they told me using programming language syntax. If they could answer correctly, I was pretty sure they new how to program. I didn’t care if they had programmed in the language my company used because I knew it would be easy to have them learn the language we use. But if they could not come up with a pretty good answer to my question, I was rather skeptical of their skills.
You see, if a person knows the concepts of programming, they can learn to do it in any language. Much can be done by simply searching Google. For example, if I created a language called CoolLang and you knew how to program, they could just type, “How do I loop in CoolLang?” and probably get the answer. But if a person doesn’t know anything about looping, they wouldn’t even know what to ask!
Can figure it out.
Throughout the boot camp, students are presented with many new problems they’ve never seen before. When they get stuck, they have an experienced instructor to guide them toward the answer. But when they get out in the professional world, they will face many programming challenges that they’ve never seen before but they won’t have a dedicated instructor to turn to for help. They’ll probably be assigned a mentor or two to ask, but mentors have their own projects and deadlines and may not be available on demand. That will leave it up to the new programmer to try to solve it on their own. They must know how to search for solutions both inside their organization and outside. Most programmers become very familiar with searching Google and StackOverflow. Companies don’t expect new programmers to be totally self-sufficient, but they do expect developers to try to solve their own problems before turning to others for help.
I would always recommend that people considering a boot camp enroll in the very next one available. The boot camp will teach you the concepts of programming as well as a particular language. The assignments will also teach how to solve problems using Google and StackOverview. After graduation, you can always go and learn Java or C# easily once you’ve learned the other one.
The boot camp will teach you how to program and, after graduation, you’ll be able to get out into the world and begin your professional software development career and bring in that paycheck. It is a great career!