3 months into my journey taking the online courses after work, I realized that I made some good progress. However, I still couldn’t write a line of code without a prompt in advance. This is how online courses could be dangerous in a way. You learn to work only with a helpful video prior to practice. It was very difficult for me to jump into solving computer problems without a hint.

I believed I needed a more generalized approach to my learning. Online Courses taught me JavaScript syntax but I still couldn’t understand all the technologies the developer works with in order to complete a project. And so I started to look at different bootcamps available in New York City as they claim to provide that knowledge.

woman worker Builder lays bricks

Selecting a bootcamp is not an easy task. If you are located in one of the major US cities like NYC or San Fransisco where the tech industry is especially developed, you’ll find many options. I took the following into consideration when deciding on a bootcamp to attend:

  • Time – it had to be a part-time bootcamp where I could attend classes after work (after 6pm) or on the weekend
  • Price – it had to be within certain budget
  • Reviews – it had to have good reviews from those who completed the program

Long story short I set my mind on the General Assembly JavaScript Development 10-week part-time course. You can find its syllabus here. The classes were 2 times per week on Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30pm till 9:30pm on campus. It gave me time to balance my work and personal life with studying. I also had a good amount of time to do the homework over the weekend. The bootcamp had a good price and positive reviews.

As I was searching for the right school, I’ve read many comments related to whether or not bootcamps are useful at all. According to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey Results 2018, 86.7% of 67,960 developers who answered questions in that part of the survey (Other types of Education) taught themselves a new language, framework, or tool without taking a formal course. And only 10.3% participated in a full-time developer training program or bootcamp. This is by no means something you should solely base your decision on but certainly good to keep in mind. Personally, I think it depends on your learning style. I will talk a bit more about how I felt when I finished the program later on in this post.

The classes started in July and lasted until mid-September 2017.

On the first day of school, our instructor shared an Emotional Cycle of Change diagram with us. It was developed by Don Kelley and Daryl Conner and outlined in their “1979 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators”:


You likely have noticed that when you are trying to make a change you go through some ups and downs during the process. Researchers have noted that this is common, and that many of us go through a predictable cycle of emotions when we choose to make a change. At the time I started the bootcamp, I was still in the Uninformed Optimism phase. Towards the end, I was somewhere around Determination or Giving Up.

It was relatively easy for me during the first few weeks. The time and energy I spent on those online courses paid off. It definitely became more difficult towards the end.

We had several projects we worked on during the course. The 2 projects that I am proud of are:

Quiz Slack Bot is a bot which displays the Quiz consisting of 15 questions with multiple answers. User has 60 seconds to answer each question otherwise the Quiz will time out. At the end of the Quiz, the bot displays the number of correct and wrong answers and a random message of congratulation (or not).

Remote World is a Single Page Application (SPA) that allows users to look for remote places to work on the Google map based on their location. This was my Final Project that I presented in front of the class. The app utilizes the Google Maps JavaScript Places API and Geolocation API

I won’t be going into the details of projects in this post and will write a separate article about them at some point later on. I had fun working on both of them though. They allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and learn a ton along the way.

Was the Bootcamp helpful after all?

Yes! The 3 main things I’ve got from it are:

  • Ability to start, work through and complete a project from scratch
  • Ability to develop applications that can be used in a real-world
  • Ability to break the project into pieces and understand the technologies needed to complete it

The points I listed above are priceless to me as bootcamp allowed me to sort of break through. I was finally not afraid to start working on something new when there is nothing but a white screen in front of you.

What you wish the Bootcamp covered but didn’t?

Few things actually:

  • Algorithms and Data Structures
  • ES6 Syntax and Features
  • React
  • Job search mockup interviews

I recommend everyone who consider taking the bootcamp to look for at least Algorithms and Data Structures and ES6 Syntax and Features sections in the syllabus. These are important because:

a) you need to know Algorithms and Data Structures in order to pass a job interview;

b) nobody uses so-called vanilla JavaScript to write modern applications. Most of them are written utilizing ES6 Syntax and Features.

When it comes to React, we actually had one class on it towards the end of the program but it was certainly not enough. Many developers would argue if you need to focus on learning a particular framework before getting a job. Companies use different frameworks these days so it is possible that the one you end up with won’t use React. On the other hand, it is a very popular framework and some companies list its knowledge as a requirement. I recommend having a list of your 5 Top Companies you want to work at handy when selecting a bootcamp. You want to focus on learning tools that will help you get you a dream job. The companies I want to work at use React which is the reason why I wanted it to be covered in the course.

Finally, many bootcamps offer job search mockup interviews as a part of the curriculum. This comes super handy as you would be able to practice before you’d need to do it live.

Did you have enough time to study while working full-time?

Yes! I find that the balance was perfect. It was a bit more difficult towards the end as I was working on the final project and the deadline was pretty tight but it was manageable. I did study every day after work and during weekends pretty much the entire time though. I also made sure I had no trips planned before I started bootcamp as I needed to give my 100% attention to learning (and work of course).

Would you recommend taking the same bootcamp at General Assembly? 

I would, yes! But it also depends on what goal you have. This bootcamp focuses on learning JavaScript itself. It won’t get you the Software Engineer job right away. At least I don’t think it will. It also doesn’t cover some key parts of the development process as I mentioned above. There are other bootcamps that claim they can help prepare you for a job interview and follow through until you get the full-time position as an Engineer.

Are there any other Bootcamps you can recommend?

Yes, there are a few that I also considered. I didn’t take them though so its on you to do an additional research:

The Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy is an immersive software engineering course for women with no upfront tuition cost. You only pay tuition once you secure a job after graduating.

For a long time, they had only full-time bootcamp available that lasted for 4 months on campus. This didn’t work for me at a time as I was not planning on quitting my job. Their curriculum is pretty extensive though and covers all the topics I find important – you can see the syllabus here. They also have high ratings and reviews so I was really bummed they didn’t have a part-time programs back then. The good news is – they do now! The Academy introduced a part-time course for the first time this summer and I think it is excellent. It is 2 times longer though as the amount of topics to learn is basically stretched over a longer period of time. It is an excellent choice for those working full-time. If I had to do it all over again, I would pick that part-time bootcamp.

As per their Homepage, this is an intensive, rigorous and structured course guaranteed to get you a job in tech. Sounds promising, huh? Thinkful offers both full-time and part-time programs which essentially cover the same material over different periods of time. Their outcomes look very impressive: 82% grads placed as full time devs. Chances you’ll be one of them are high (if you work really hard of course). You decide! This is an online bootcamp and you can be located anywhere. When I was selecting the program, I was and still am working remote. I particularly wanted an onsite bootcamp in order to have more social interactions with people that I lack sometimes. But I think Thinkful is a great choice.

There are many more bootcamps available out there. I encourage you to do a thorough research before committing to any of them. Try to look for graduates on LinkedIn or else where and reach out with questions. I often get direct messages from people I don’t know asking me either about my work or my education/learning process. I am always happy to share. I do the same when I need to and usually get a reply back. Maybe not everyone is so open and that is OK but you will be surprised how many people are glad to share their experience with others. Tech community is a good bunch of friendly people to turn to for an advice.

I finished bootcamp right in time for leaving for our company’s annual Grand Meetup. While being there, I took a Calypso Class where I could practice my newly gained knowledge on an active real-world project that is being used by millions of people. I will tell more about it in the next post 🙂

Author: Julia Amosova

Engineering Manager - WooCommerce, Automattic

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