I caught one of the latest episodes of Eli the Computer Guy last week and it really caught my attention.
Eli pointed out that one of the biggest coding schools, The Iron Yard, was shutting its doors completely, soon.
It made me really think about the idea of coding schools altogether. The idea that anyone can become a programmer has had a lot of hype lately. I’ll use the term hype loosely, because coding schools are not all hype in my opinion.
I still believe that you can learn how to develop software on your own. Some argue that it requires a degree to really acquire the fundamental knowledge.
The thing is that software development is such a broad term. While I agree that some software out there is really hard and requires deep knowledge of engineering and mathematical concepts, there is a lot of software that does not, one example of that are applications (of any sort, whether web or mobile).
It does not take high levels of knowledge to produce software that receives data, and stores it in a back end.
I still think that coding schools can be worth it. Having experienced helping coding school students first hand and interviewing candidates for openings, I see the same problem with coding schools that I saw in the late 90s with Computer degrees. That problem is that many students are only applying with their sole motivation being based on the monetary rewards and compensation.
In order to succeed in software development you must really enjoying creating software and solving problems. You must also really enjoy writing code and making software components talk. You must be able to enjoy it so much that you are willing to endure the pain that comes from experiment with things that don’t work right out of the box or at frist attempt.
If you don’t like to writing code that much you are likely going to fail as a software developer.
This does not mean that you are not smart enough to do it. It means that you are likely not going to have enough passion to allow you to spend long hours figuring out obscure problems. Yes, coding, requires long hours to figure things out. As, passionate programmers, we don’t get tired and sometimes we don’t even notice. In fact, to many of us, it’s like playing video games. We actually have a lot of fun doing it.
Let me say this about coding schools. They work. I say this because I have interviewed developers coming from these schools and many of them really knew their stuff. By work I mean that they can prepare you enough to land the job. That does not mean that you will keep the job or last in the field. Having a lasting profession will only be determined if you keep learning and improving your skills.
You don’t have to absolutely love writing software, but at some level you must enjoy it. If you don’t, your career will suffer. Software development requires you to constantly study and learn new concepts and ways of doing things. The learning never stops. If you don’t lean towards the “I-love-this-stuff” end of the spectrum, you will likely not have the juice to be marketable. Not to mention that you will hate your job when you don’t know how to do it and have no desire to learn.
Another thing about the idea that anyone can become a programmer and is that the game is still based on supply and demand. When there is high demand the supply will grow to meet that demand. You don’t have to be as good or as skilled and still get a job. When the supply outgrows the demand, you have saturation. It is at this point that competition gets more intense. When it does, that’s when the people with better credentials will have the better opportunities. Credentials doesn’t necessarily mean degrees, although it can. It can also mean experience. In the end the knowledge and skills will be your best asset for getting the job.
Once caveat about coding schools is that they go 200 miles an hour. In my opinion coding schools cover too much ground too fast. Software development knowledge and concepts take time to process. Everyone learns differently but for me I know that many times in between semesters my mind would still be figuring out concepts from last semester or even two semesters ago. Some information you just can’t rush. That doesn’t mean you won’t get your money’s worth. It simply means that you must be mentally, socially and financially prepared for it. To succeed in a coding school you will need it to be 90% or more of your focus besides eating and sleeping.
I know that people that hire new employees coming from boot camps don’t hire these students based on what they can do but rather on the potential of what they can learn and apply at the job. The potential is based on what they learned in the school but realistically a new graduates has a lot to learn in their journey. This is not much different than what is expected of a traditional college graduate.
I say all this to summarize that yes, coding schools work but my question to you is “are they for you?”.