If you have ever passed on a potential hire because they have coding bootcamp experience rather than a formal CS degree, it’s time to forget everything you think you know about bootcamp graduates and reconsider your options.
Max Nisen at Business Insider eloquently illustrates the following point in his article Google Has Started Hiring More People Who Didn’t Go to College:
Computer-science degrees teach theory and help the best engineers advance the state of the art, but we’ve entered an age in which demanding that every programmer has a degree is like asking every bricklayer to have a background in architectural engineering.
I’m well aware of certain stigmas that have existed around coding bootcamp students, such as, “No one can really learn how to become a programmer in a matter of weeks.” But as bootcamps continue to proliferate there is example after example of how they do learn how to become proficient programmers in a short span of time, and they do go on to make positive contributions to companies, ranging from Fortune 100 companies to Silicon Valley start-ups.
As companies continue to struggle to fill the gap between the supply and demand of programmers and bring diversity into the workplace, it’s time to look seriously towards coding bootcamps as hubs for high potential tech talent.
Here are six reasons why:
#1) These are hardworking, motivated individuals.
Coding bootcamps offer an insanely intense experience. First, students need to have the fortitude to drop everything – convince their families and friends that what they’re doing isn’t crazy – and put their lives on hold for the next several months. But that’s just the start. Next, they have to unlock the stamina and self-discipline to spend anywhere from 70 to 90 hours a week coding – an equivalent of two full-time jobs. By just showing up on Day 1 they are demonstrating extreme courage. Ultimately, students who choose to go through a bootcamp show an intrinsic motivation and passion that will be carried with them into their careers.
#2) They aren’t career first-timers.
The majority of students are career switchers with prior professional experience under their belts and it’s reported that 70 percent of students are college grads. I’ve seen lawyers, marketing execs, teachers, therapists, Ivy League grads and former journalists go through the program. Each one brings exceptional perspectives and problem-solving skills to future employers. They can round-out a team by bringing a unique combination of passion and fresh perspectives, along with transferable skills that you may not get from a recent college grad.
#3) They aren’t completely new to coding.
Even though our coding program, and many others, accept students who are starting from ground zero, so to speak, I would venture to say that about 80 percent of serious applicants have spent time trying to teach themselves to code, and after eventually getting frustrated with self-guided study, they decide to attend a coding school to speed up the learning process. There’s also a healthy number of CS students and grads with CS experience who attend the program to learn the latest programming languages. At minimum, we require incoming students to have a foundational understanding of algorithms and web fundamentals that they can carry through the program and eventually into their career.
#4) Collectively, they offer employers a diverse talent pool.
Coding schools offer a collaborative environment where women and minorities can thrive. For instance, while women earn just 18% of undergraduate degrees awarded for computer science, coding schools, on average, have a much higher percent of female grads – with some like Ada Academy exclusively focused on extending the learning to the female population. Most coding bootcamps have special incentives to encourage women and minorities to confidently pursue a career in programming.
#5) They have more practical web development experience than CS grads.
As a matter of fact, many university computer science programs are limited in what they teach and struggle to keep up with the ever-changing web development industry. Unless these students are exceptional, they won’t understand modern web frameworks or building apps outside of Java. While coding school grads may lack in theoretical foundation, their practical skills match that of a junior web developer. And isn’t it true that in most cases hiring manager seek practical skills over theory?
#6) There is a spectrum of talent and abilities across schools and bootcamp grads.
We need to be careful not to categorize all coding school students as exceptional or all coding school students as unexceptional. Even at the university level, there are some students who excel, while others who may not based on a variety of factors. Similarly, there are some coding schools with industry-leading curriculum and instructors, and others that may teach students a specific programming language, but not the skills needed to hit the ground running as self-sufficient developers. As an employer, it’s important to adequately research the curriculum taught at the various schools as well as what they should know by the time they graduate. You should also interview a handful of grads to make an assessment of whether it’s a school whose graduates will be prepared for the workplace.
The Growth Investment
Another important dimension of coding bootcamp students is the growth investment.
As an employer myself, I want a team who can demonstrate they can ramp up quickly. I can’t imagine any better indicator of growth potential than what a graduate has demonstrated during the course of a coding bootcamp. If someone can go from basic knowledge of coding to a black belt (our highest certification at Coding Dojo) in 3 months, than that’s a strong indicator that they have the aptitude to be a successful programmer – with the right mentorship, of course.
If you’re an employer asking whether or not to hire a coding bootcamp student, my advice is to start out opening up internships to gauge their proficiency and see for yourself what they can bring to the table. Also, start conversations with reputable coding bootcamps to better understand their curriculums and teaching structure.
Not only will you fill your positions quickly, but you’ll have a greater pool of applicants to choose from, which typically results in a more selective hire in the end. Rather than hiring the only qualified candidate, you will be empowered hire the very best candidate, which may very well be a coding bootcamp grad.