Bridging the gap of CS skills as a bootcamp grad

If you ask hiring managers why they refuse to interview bootcamp grads, they’ll say “computer science fundamentals like data structures and algorithms.” If you ask them what else, they’ll stumble around for words and say something like “four years of immersion.”

It’s not feasible to self-study four years of unrelated coursework and heavy drinking, but it’s not impossible to supplement your bootcamp education with a very strong understanding of computer science fundamentals.

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Final project: A good README is more important than a pristine codebase

Your README.md is where you flex your technical guns.

Recruiters (usually) aren’t coders. They hand your resume to an engineer to approve or reject for an interview. The difficult part here is that engineering time is extremely valuable. Make it as easy as possible to see your best code. Don’t make the engineer navigate through app/frontend/components/profile/userprofile.jsx:line 147 to see a code sample. Put any clever database schema decisions in your readme, add snippets of fancy queries to your readme, add code samples you’re proud of to your readme.

This highlights your best code. Having seen some code snippets, an engineer is far less likely to browse your repository and stumble on your garbage code. Note: go refactor your garbage code.

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Choosing a final project that stands out

You’ve had an idea in your head ever since you enrolled at ${bootcampName}. And now that you’ve completed most of the curriculum, you also have the skills needed to execute. Your bootcamp is giving you two weeks to build a full stack website and it seems like the perfect time to implement your idea and change the world, right?

Hang on. Now is not the time – although your project might be the next decacorn, you’re looking for something more short-term. Although your idea could hit the front page of TechCrunch and gain five million users during your final weeks of bootcamp. it’s more likely you will have only a few users – a ‘login as guest’ account and any other fake personalities you seeded your database with.

A company will spend less than a minute playing with your app. It’s your job to ensure they see the best demonstration of your abilities within that first minute.

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Are paid bootcamp prep programs a scam?

Coding bootcamps have made so many waves in tech that acceptance into a top-tier bootcamp is akin to receiving an admissions letter from an Ivy League college. In the spirit of capitalism, courses have popped up offering introductory lessons designed to get you through the application process at competitive bootcamp programs. These classes cost anywhere from $200 – $4,000 USD and are available as evening and remote sessions. I believe these courses are completely unnecessary, and anyone motivated enough to complete a rigorous bootcamp program should be able to pass the technical interview with no issues.

Bootcamps are a for-profit business in a finite market – this means the odds are in your favor. Bootcamps want you to enroll at their program – each student brings in $15 – $25K in revenue, and a rejected student will simply walk across the street and enroll in another equally recognizable bootcamp. You are the customer. No matter how prestigious or selective a bootcamp looks, they need as many students like yourself as possible to remain profitable. If you show any aptitude for programming, you will get in with no issues.

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About the author

I have a B.S. Petroleum Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. I worked in the oil & gas industry and had a blast while oil prices hovered above $100/barrel; however, the supply crisis in 2015 – 2016 led to massive layoffs in the industry. Hundreds of thousands of petroleum professionals lost their jobs, including myself.

I always had a love of making things on the web. I had made Youtube jukeboxes using jQuery and small visualizations in D3.js. Around the time I lost my job, a friend sent me an article about the newest fad in education – coding bootcamps that promised to turn people with little experience in computer programming into developers.

Of course I was skeptical, but I didn’t see oil prices coming back anytime soon so I went for it. I enrolled in App Academy in October 2016 and graduated in January 2017. Four weeks after graduation I started a job at fubo.tv, exactly one year from the day I left the oil and gas industry.