I’ve never been to bootcamp. I wasn’t even in the Scouts growing up. So, unlike most of the posts on this site, which features a story about something I did or was involved in, this is largely my views on a question.
Here’s the question, “I’m a twentysomething-year-old with regular computing schools, I have a non-IT career, but want to make a switch, what should I do?”
A few preliminaries:
- I’m not trying to convince you to do IT
- You’re willing and able to devote time to make a switch
- Everything following this is a suggestion mostly based on opinion, with a dash of experience
I heard that question and immediately thought, “Not a degree”. It’s not that degrees are bad, or that I’m in the anti-degree movement. I think degrees have their place, but for adults, who are probably in a clearer place with respect to their needs, and who don’t need too much handholding, a degree feels like the wrong approach. Note, feels. Some might tell you go ahead and do a degree of some sort, and that’s OK, if you have the inclination and time (and money), go ahead.
So, if not degree, what?
There are many voices online about why to do an alternative to a degree when considering a career switch. I’m taking this from one of two starting points:
- You’ve advanced to some degree in a non-IT career, and you would love to add some form of IT as seasoning on top of that. For example, you’ve been in banking and finance, and have been hearing about the wonders that can be done if you get a handle on data science.
- OR, you hate what you currently do. Every day is a slog, and though it pays the bills, which is important, you’d love to get out and do something else. The something else you’ve settled on, is something in IT.
If you’re in camp 1, then I think it’s good to look first for people who have already made the switch. Depending on your industry, they’re easy to find, they might have blogs, or tweets. They might be in your office, or across the world. You might know them from the books they’ve written, or you use something they’ve created, like a tool to get work done.
Find a few of these people, and create a matrix that tracks how their career has evolved. See what they studied and when, look at the order of growth for them. Did they take a few courses? Did they blog about their journey? Did they join any groups? You’re not trying to copy their path necessarily, but it would be good to open your eyes to the kinds of pathways you can explore.
People in camp 1 tend to want to use the aspects of IT they like as ways to get their overall life goals accomplished. They don’t see programming or data science or some aspect of development as their new passion, instead as a way to further their existing skills in their current field. That sort of person is looking for a bridge between what they know and what they need to know.
In the past, they might have done a masters to fill that need, but now, it might be a menu of courses that closely relate to their existing field – the specific list should be clear if they did the work of selecting a few people to study and glean good ideas from.
Now, if you’re in camp 2… that’s something else. You’re starting over or maybe even picking back up from a long time ago. Your first step doesn’t have to be daunting. As opposed to looking at people, you might want to look at areas in IT. Even the term “Information Technology” is a bit long in the tooth. But it still tracks. Look at broad areas, and do some YouTube surfing for talks that describe how those areas work in real life. It might be on the design side, or security, or something called back-end. You’re trying to get a sense of why the area is important and whether you feel a broad pull to dig at it more.
IT is hard. Maybe you haven’t made any real investment yet, so let’s get that out of the way. But I hear that any career that you want to do really well at is hard. You generally have to figure out if the hardness of an area lines up well with what you want to spend your time doing.
Once you find a few areas you dig, there are quite a few providers online of good standing that can provide you with courses or rather collections of courses to get you a sense of awareness of what working in that area can be like. I don’t know of any course-list that will just give you everything to simply be a professional in your chosen area. What most courses should aim to do is make you conversant in the area you care about. That’s usually enough to help you “Google your way to success”.
Let’s say you chose software development. Googling, “bootcamp software development” will yield way too many results. It’s good to talk to working software engineers to help weed out some of the starting results. At first, my results of that query yielded this great article, essentially saying “be wary of bootcamps”. It’s good advice and paints a decent picture. Bootcamps aren’t a cure-all. But as I said, you’re probably working and don’t have the luxury of doing a full-time degree, but may be interested in getting into the field.
Since I use a site called “StackOverflow” a lot, I searched that network for some perspective. This was a good Q/A on the question of bootcamp vs something longer.
In both articles above, an important takeaway was that any education in software development is necessarily only a start, and it can take a while for the way (to paraphrase Mando) to even make sense.
Yet, using a decent bootcamp/starter experience to understand more of the field you’re trying to switch into as an adult is a good strategy. You have to keep your eyes open and trust the instinct you’ve developed, it will help you know when what you’re trying maybe isn’t working and when you need to switch things up.
I don’t have a lot of experience with actual providers, but I like what CodeNewbie has been doing in the space of getting new people into the field.
This whole post was a suggestion, filled with opinion. HTH.