Tips from a TA

How to Start a Career in Software Development

Being a Teaching Assistant for Code Platoon’s Coding Bootcamp, I often hear questions from each new cohort concerning the pathway to becoming full-stack software developers. It can be nerve-wracking to undergo a training program of any sort, even more so when career prospects come into consideration. As someone who has had some success in the field thus far, I’d like to share my two cents on the going from the classroom to the workforce.

“Should I go for a Computer Science Degree or train with a Coding Bootcamp?”

Attending a Coding Bootcamp or obtaining a CS degree is forever debatable. 

In my personal experience, I have been selected over peers with the CS degrees for certain tasks, but that is not to say that CS degrees don’t have value. Traditionally, computer science degrees provide folks with the basic fundamentals of computer engineering. Additionally, those who hold CS degrees tend to end up in managerial roles. With Coding Bootcamps, you’ll be learning valuable skills that aren’t typically taught in the college classroom, and the hands-on approach to coding cannot be understated. The skills that you learn in a bootcamp are comparable to the workforce. Once in a job, you’ll likely see things done many different ways than you were taught, and the code base itself will be larger than your projects. However, the concepts and basic functionality will still apply.

Each of the education approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses and I will not value nor devalue either approach but rather say instead that both compliment each other well within a team! Regardless of what decision you come to, don’t stress on it. There will always be some companies that just stick to the degree out of principle for certain requirements but it’s fewer than you would think. Even some roles that claim to only be applicable for those with a traditional degree will take on Coding Bootcamp grads. On that note, if you do decide to go the Full-Stack Bootcamp route, as long as it is a reputable program and an in-demand coding language is taught, you’ll have a place in the workforce. 

“How do I know what Coding Bootcamp is right for me?”

Unfortunately, this is a question that only you can answer as there are a lot of different variables for different people. Cost, time spent in the classroom, length of the program and school networks such as alumni or internships are all factors that should be taken into consideration. Again, as long as the educator is reputable and provides training in valuable languages you should be able to land a job that offers great pay, benefits and opportunities especially as the world becomes even more embedded in tech.

Just do some research on the best Coding Bootcamps out there and line up what works best for you.

“Am I stuck in the language I learned or a certain position?” 

Starting out in the language you first learned how to code with would be ideal, but from my own experience… logic is logic and sometimes flexibility is needed. It is entirely likely that you may end up having to pick up an additional language while on the job to complete taskings, but if you’ve gone through a Coding Bootcamp you’ve already been armed with the tools to work through the challenge.

When it comes to applying for positions, “Full-Stack, Front-End, Back-End” are usually in the highest demand but you will learn that there are so many roles within this field and when it comes time to applying, the position doesn’t matter ‘right now’. Just be prepared to do any side of the stack as you will still be on a journey of learning throughout your career and may not know which end you actually prefer until later. Besides, your first job doesn’t have to be your forever job, but it could be if you like it enough. Just keep progressing at your pace and know that you are never truly locked into anything.

“I’m enrolled in a Coding Bootcamp but I’m not the most technologically literate person. Is it possible for me to make it as a software developer?”

My first interaction with coding was through a billboard on the road a few years back. It was an ad to work for USAA that asked a simple question, “DO YOU EVEN CODE?” At the time, I didn’t even know what it meant. I had worked in mostly ‘grunt’ jobs but over time I became more exposed to the world of programming and software engineering in part to friends in the field and a growing interest in the tech world.

What really got my gears started was signing up for some free workshops through General Assembly. I took some UX Design classes and coding courses but knew I had to commit to one or the other. While I enjoyed the creativity of UX more, I figured that coding would grant me more career opportunities and I don’t have any regrets so far with that decision. 

Anytime you learn a new skill, anxiety can creep in, and it is no different in a Coding Bootcamp. You’ll be challenged by some ‘basic’ tech stuff and that’s okay! It can be exciting to be pushed to new limits as well as a bit frustrating at times where it seems like most of your peers ‘get it’ and you’re still trying to wrap your head around ‘Hello World’ but I’ll let you in on a little secret when it comes to learning the trade. Working with the tech and tools is important, but understanding and using logic along with some critical thinking is ultimately the foundation of progressing in the field. The basics that you’ll be introduced to within your Coding Bootcamp or CS program are paramount to the success of your career, so don’t take them for granted.

Good luck out there and happy coding!

Jerry Rogers served as a Ranger in the US Army, is a graduate of UAF, and is a Teaching Assistant for Code Platoon. He learned software development through Skill Distillery and is currently working as a Full-Stack Developer II for Brinks Home. He doesn’t have a middle name but he does enjoy the outdoors. You can find him on LinkedIn. 

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