I asked my Bootcamp batch mates how their career change went and what they would recommend to those taking the step today
Three years ago, we were freshly graduated from the Web Development Bootcamp Ironhack in Berlin, with the goal to become Full Stack engineers. It was a very important step in the career change plan for each and every one of us.
We came from very many different backgrounds, for different reasons, but with one common goal: acquire the necessary coding skills and kick-start our new career. It was quite a ride, and I wrote about it back then in this article, and for most — it was not easy either.
But guess what? We are now developers!
And as I remember myself at the beginning of the process, looking with uncertainty and doubt for advice from accomplished career changers, I thought that it would be great to check in with my Bootcamp batchmates and collect their thoughts about the process, as well as some advice for those considering the big jump.
I will be adding my thoughts on each question by reflecting about my own experience as well.
What did do before? What do you do now?
Keighley (@keighleymcf): Sustainability project management, communications, and research
Elon: I was a (bad) cook and a (bad also) barista when I wasn’t a (not good enough) musician. Now I’m a software engineer for a big company and a better musician.
Ninette: I worked at a nonprofit organisation in program monitoring and evaluation. Now I work as a software developer.
Sarah: I was working in the field of science communication, and now I am a Fullstack Developer
Marko: I was a company owner, and currently I am an AWS Cloud Engineer
All the people I asked are actively pursuing a career as developers. When it comes to me I was working on user acquisition in the gaming industry, in roles focused on business and people management. Once I started thinking about taking the step, all previous moments where I was considering learning to code “just for fun” acquired a bigger sense. And yes, now I am a Fullstack engineer as well working with Node.js and React.
How do you feel about the change?
Sarah: Very positive — it’s been a few years since switching careers and it’s helped preserve my passion for science (I now only take on a few freelance jobs in that field that I really want to do) and I enjoy working as a developer for a small company that is very supportive of personal growth and learning.
Elon: Best decision of my life. I love my job and it’s a great job for creative people like me.
Ninette: I am glad I made the decision to make the change. I love the challenge the job brings with it and opens up new learning opportunities.
Keighley: Best decision I made in my adult life! (Next to finding my fiance 😉 )
Similar kind of feeling on my side: it feels natural, it feels closer to who I am, and I am very happy about the change. What is most notable is the faculty to project years in the future in my own career and feel the excitement.
What was the hardest part?
Sarah: finding the right timing and financial backing to support the training for the career change.
Elon: getting the first job! But not because we were from a bootcamp. CS graduates would tell the same. Getting the first job is HARD. but 200% worth it.
Ninette: honestly the hardest part was to decide to leave my previous job and start something new. It is hard to leave the comfort of familiarity but once I did it I felt good. I really enjoyed doing the bootcamp, learning new skills, and meeting great people.
Keighley: getting settled in my first job when there was still so much I didn’t know.
Marko: doing something completely different after 15 years in my previous career.
Every aspect of a career change to become a developer is hard, and it feels different for everyone: taking the step, finding time and money, the learning itself and the struggles that it brings, or the first job search. For me it was the last part — the first job — where I felt vulnerable and not totally ready to face the process of getting tons of rejections when applying.
The bad thing is that a fresh bootcamp graduate is not a “wahou” developer profile for most companies. The good thing though is that the demand for engineers is very high and the tech stacks keep changing, so a company understands what to expect and sees a good personality fit is a good first employer.
What did/do you enjoy the most?
Sarah: Continuous learning and, to me surprisingly, mentoring. We recently hired a few junior devs who are either self-taught or have a coding Bootcamp background and mentoring them and helping them grow has been really fun.
Keighley: Getting lost in coding. My work days fly by in a really good way! And the financial freedom I have now.
Elon: The friends we make in a bootcamp. People come from different backgrounds and the intense bootcamp experience creates a unique vibe. A real team vibe.
Ninette: I love the aspect of continuous learning this career presents. There’s always something new to explore and try out. During my bootcamp I was lucky to have an extraordinary cohort of people who helped each other to grow.
Marko: learning every day.
For me personally, having fun in creating things, pushing the brain to its limits, and constantly learning were (and are) priceless. The bootcamp is a very special period of the whole path, with lots of diverse minds sharing a unique moment. Three years in, I am still in contact with some of the people, which says a lot.
What would be your advice for someone who decides to change career to become a developer?
Sarah: Don’t be afraid of changing careers — multiple times if need be. It’s really not as scary a step as some people might tell you. And yes, imposter syndrome is real and something you should be aware of when starting afresh in a new field.
Elon: Go for it. Nothing is magic, you have to put in the work and it can be really hard. But I can only recommend the experience
Marko: the 10-year rule: no matter how successful you are, change your profession after 10 years and start something completely new. It is not only good for your ego, but it also makes you feel the enthusiasm you had at the beginning.
Ninette: If you are coming from a non-technical background, explore online resources to see if software development interests you. Changing careers just because others are doing it is not a good enough reason. You’ll eventually regret it. But if you enjoy the technical work then take the leap. Don’t think it’s not achievable because you are new to it or not feel comfortable in a still very white male-centric sector. Skills are learnable but having the right mindset is more important. Join a boot camp (like I did:)), get a mentor, solve problems, ask questions. It’ll be a great adventure!
Keighley: It’s never too late to start!
Some of the personal learnings I would like to add:
- Before deciding on the change, try to learn the basics and play around. Coding may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy it it is a very good sign.
- There will be moments of frustration where you are blocked on issues, but also immense rewards when a solution is found: if the reward seems to be worth the pain, it means you can succeed!
- When choosing a boot camp, check the program in detail, contact alumni, and see if it provides what you are looking for.
- Learn by yourself as much as possible, keep discipline and make sure you have a good routine: perseverance is the key!
Writing this piece was an immense pleasure, as it gave me the opportunity to exchange with my former classmates and learn a bit more from their experience, I would therefore like to say a big thank you and give a massive shout-out to all my contributors!
I hope that reading it was as enjoyable. Thanks for reading.
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