The Distraction Free Path to Becoming a Professional Programmer
2017: The year you decided to spring into action and finally make that leap of courage into the alluring and seemingly magical world of coding.
Even though you may feel like you’re getting a bit of a late start out of the gate, the tech revolution is only gaining momentum. Thanks largely to our ever-evolving Digital Age, programming remains one of the most well-paid and in-demand trades, and there’s still plenty of room for aspiring hackers to saddle up and join the race.
So whether your New Year’s resolution is to kickstart a new career as a full-time junior programmer at a growing startup or learn a new skill to help you move up the ranks at your current company, here’s to a new, code-conquering you!
But before you can dive headlong into building websites, SaaS products, or publishing apps on Google Play, you first need to gain a firm understanding of the fundamentals.
When you have little to no coding experience under your belt, it can seem like an impossibly long, uphill battle to arrive at a place where you can stand in front of an employer and prove you’re worth your salt. And it’s not always clear where to begin acquiring those skills once you’ve decided to take the first step.
The Rise Of The Coding Bootcamp
At this point, you’ve probably already dipped your toe in the water by devoting a good chunk of time researching and weighing your options online. If so, chances are you discovered pretty quickly that there’s been a lot of buzz lately around coding bootcamps, short-term retreats designed to teach coding greenhorns the ropes in an intensive, accelerated learning environment.
Think of the coding bootcamp as the Digital Age’s answer to the trade school. It’s a relatively new model aimed at getting coders job-ready in an increasingly skills-based economy. And they’ve exploded in popularity since first rising to prominence in 2012. The number of bootcamp graduates in 2017 is expected to quadruple 2014’s figures -- with an estimated 24,000 graduates this year compared to approximately 6,200 grads just three years ago.
Or, if you , maybe you’ve had some trouble landing the exact position you’d hoped for, and you’re looking for a solid way to round out your portfolio.
Whatever your circumstance, many regard bootcamps as an appealing alternative or a complement to traditional higher education for several reasons:
A 2016 Course study found in surveying 52 qualifying coding bootcamps that 73% of the 1,143 respondents reported being employed in a full-time job requiring the skills learned at bootcamp.
Not only are the majority of bootcamp graduates polled getting jobs, but they’re also earning more. In surveying over 1,000 bootcamp graduates, Switchup found that 63% of respondents reported an increase in salary post-graduation.
While each bootcamp varies, Switchup reports the average duration is around 10.8 weeks. Sure, you’re putting in a lot more hours of work per day, but you’re walking away with a valuable skillset in a significantly shorter amount of time compared to the 4 years you would spend obtaining a CS degree.
Many colleges only offer a handful of classes where you’re doing any actual programming. A lot of time is spent on extraneous classes studying things like theory. While these general requirements are certainly valuable, you’re never taught how to go “full stack” and hook languages up to databases and user interfaces or other important responsibilities that dev teams regularly tackle in the real world.
Bootcamps offer a much more intimate, albeit intensely-paced, learning environment than your standard college lecture, with more opportunity for one-on-one interaction between instructors and fellow students.
Students work in small groups and build real applications that they can add to their portfolio, and classes typically consist of fewer than 10 students working alongside a single mentor.
Grow Intellectually And Culturally
If you decide that bootcamp is the right option for you, you’ll have an important choice to make. You can either remain in your current city -- provided there’s a bootcamp program offered in your area -- or you can pack up your suitcase, hit the road, and move to a new one temporarily.
Although you might be apprehensive about the prospect of uprooting and temporarily leaving behind your home, friends, and family -- getting outside of your comfort zone (and area code) comes with some key advantages:
One of the biggest challenges with attending a bootcamp locally is that you’re most likely going to be interrupted by constant distractions that will test your willpower and tempt you to neglect your studies. Let’s be honest. Fear of missing out is a pretty powerful thing. When your friends hit you up to take some well-deserved R&R and join them out on the town for “one quick drink,” it’s going to be hard to say no.
On the other hand, when you’re in a completely new setting, you’re much farther removed from those distractions than if you were close to home.
The great thing about attending a bootcamp in a new destination is that you get to feed your travel bug and grow intellectually at the same time. Traveling to a place that you’ve never been before and fully-immersing yourself in that environment fulfills a sense of wanderlust and freedom while also helping you gain new life experiences. By exposing yourself to new places, people, and cultures, you get a unique world perspective and an open mind -- which can actually be influential in increasing academic performance.
Research has shown that those who travel are more likely to succeed in school and in life down the road.
WYSE Travel Confederation’s study “Travel Improves Educational Attainment & Future Success” found that educational travel programs, including international service-learning trips, immediately improved academic performance.
International travel, especially when it’s with a group or through a program, provides students with a global network of contacts and references that they’re able to leverage down the road.
If you’re concerned about the costs of moving, living arrangements, food, transportation, and other necessary expenses on top of bootcamp tuition, there are great, affordable options available that bake all of these expenses right into the tuition price.
Where Innovation Takes Root
When considering where to get the ideal bootcamp experience, many people immediately think about places like San Francisco, NYC, Seattle, London, or other sprawling tech hubs. However, a number of destination spots have recently popped up abroad that cater to those who wish to trade the unrelenting hustle and bustle of city life for more serene, natural environments.
Combined with the fact that the bootcamp market is becoming increasingly saturated in the US, a lot of coding students are starting to opt for more rustic, pastoral settings abroad. Not only are they getting more picturesque scenery and fewer distractions, but many students find they can better de-stress and unwind in more natural locales in-between their rigorous studies.
Whether you’re getting some fresh air on a quick hike through the forest during breaks or if you’re feeling stuck, learning in a place where you’re surrounded by nature allows you to better recuperate and work more productively.
When Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” he wasn’t just waxing philosophical -- he wasn’t actually onto something rooted in science.
Among the many mental and physical health benefits, spending time in nature is shown to restore mental energy, alleviate stress, sharpen thinking and creativity, and improve short-term memory, concentration, and sleep patterns. In a University of Michigan study, students were given memory tests and then divided into two groups. One group walked around an arboretum, the other walked down a city street. When the groups retook the test, those who walked around the city did not consistently improve, and the group that walked among trees performed almost 20% better than the first time!
Deciding that you wanted to become a professional coder was the easy part. Now begins the hard work. But you’re okay with that -- because coders are problem solvers at heart!
As you prepare to launch into this exciting, somewhat scary, but undeniably rewarding endeavor, keep in mind that -- like anything else -- becoming an expert coder takes discipline, commitment, passion, and a relentless drive to keep learning and keep growing.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what you feel will work best for you as you set out on your journey to becoming a professional programmer.