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Ask HN: What should I tell my cousin who wants to go to a “coding boot camp”?
73 points by everybodyknows on Feb 26, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments
She's a recent grad with an international relations major. Now wants to go to a local web dev boot camp, which looks to me just more-or-less legit. Any alternative ideas?

I did one.

I HIGHLY suggest vetting the placement "statistics". For me, I just read 95% get a job, went to the open house, listened to a couple "rah rah" testimonials and did it. It was a big mistake.

A friend of mine from the class estimated that only 30-40% of us got actual dev jobs. The rest are either in customer service at a tech company, sales or testing (keep in mind this is people who dropped $15k+ to do the bootcamp), back in our old industry or in the case of one, working at Trader Joes.

I was under the impression that 95% get good jobs. If I had known only 30-40% did I would have never done the boot camp.

How did they manipulate the numbers? I never dug deep but here are my thoughts:

* to qualify as "actively looking" you can't have a job to support yourself. That's right you're supposed to not have an income while job searching, kinda hard when it can take more than six months. If you get a job, you get dropped from career support and your statistic gets placed in the "not actively looking" category

* "industry related jobs". If you go to a dev boot camp, you want to be a dev. You're paying $15k to do it. A customer service job at a tech startup is better than nothing but you don't have to pay $15k to do it. Likewise for sales.

As a positive point, all the females in our cohort got dev jobs, including the only one who actually failed the class. Startups are pretty aware of the gender discrepancy and actively looking to hire those with double x chromosomes. Not complaining about affirmative action, just wanted to give you as full picture as possible

As a dev in Denver who routinely interviews candidates from some of the nations top bootcamps, i can corroborate these claims. Many graduates from these programs are hired by the bootcamp itself, as tutors or web devs. Rarely are these hires profitable to the school, instead the are done strictly to maintain the placement statistics that are paramount to their continued enrollment.

Uh... I don't normally do this, but any chance you guys are hiring? I'm in Denver looking for an entry level position. I can do machine learning

Constructive criticism since you had the courage to publicly inquire: was there something about the commenter that made you feel machine learning was a targeted approach? I can't immediately see anything particular about the commenter or the company (in profile), so my first impression was that you were using a buzz word.

Also I recognize that a forum is really not conducive to this, but perhaps you could quantify what you mean by "do machine learning"...what sort of business deliverable would you contribute?

Overall though, you might want to just aggressively hunt for the person's email and pitch in private :)

I brought it up since his profile pointed me towards a dating site, which is prime ground for predictive analytics. Also, the website didn't have a "careers" section that I could readily find.

You seem like a really intelligent and capable person. I wish you luck in your search for a dev job!

Hm, fair enough, that does seem to follow. Good luck :)


We actually are hiring, but i have no idea how to reach you. If you go to my blog[1], my email is at the bottom of every post.

1: https://blog.benroux.me


Things have changed over the last few years and what was true in 2013 is no longer true.

In 2013, the few bootcamps that existed and the fewer cohorts they each had were much more selective and they were producing in total many fewer candidates. The result is that bootcamp grads were very high quality (albeit very junior) and they got snapped up quickly.

In 2017 there are bootcampers everywhere flooding the market.

So I'm not sure they are outright lying but maybe they are using data to market their programs that is out of date.

The first two CS courses at my top university are enough to be qualified for your entry-level junior engineer: the intro course "Programming with Java" (recently changed to Python now), followed by the second course, Data "Structures & Algorithms."

All the bootcamp would have to do is be similarly very selective and do the same exact curriculum, and the people who "survive" these two weed-out courses (you needed to score higher than half your classmates in each course to receive a passing grade, otherwise you had to keep re-taking it) would be the ones able to get hired with nearly 100% placement.

> you needed to score higher than half your classmates in each course to receive a passing grade

Was this actually the rule dictated by the professor/curriculum or just a rule of thumb?

This is common in highly ranked programs in the United States. We had the exact same system in my accounting program which was ranked 11th in the nation at the time.

On the flipside, there are more total people who want to do bootcamps. So there's definitely more noise, but also more good signal as well

The % of people who get jobs doesn't matter. Those people are not you. Maybe the 70% decided they didn't like coding after all. Or maybe the course was crap. Who knows?

You have a good point but I have to disagree with you when you say that "The % of people who get jobs doesn't matter." It does matter. I'm sure you'd agree if it were 1% and not 70%.

Nope still doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if you aren't looking for a career in that field.

If you are choosing between fields or are looking to increase your income, how many people got good-paying, permanent jobs is highly important. It is also important if you are spending money that might be better invested in something else (such as a reliable vehicle or a down payment on a house if you live in the Midwest).

If you simply want the learning, the money isn't an issue ,and/or you don't actually care to land a job with the knowledge, then the job thing isn't an issue. All depends on perspective and desired outcomes.

Then you need to assess more deeply than % employed because you don't know how motivated they where. For example a ReactJS course could increase your chance of getting a job from 60 to 80% due to your motivation, but only 30% of that class got a job because most of them are just course hopping looking for a career change.

I'd tell her to do some work on her own before signing up. The internet is jam packed with courses, guides, tutorials and references for all the skills needed for web dev, for free. Pick a tutorial and work through it. Then dream up a really simple project—todo app, pet store, tick-tack-toe or whatever—and build it from scratch, using the same stack.

Then with that under her belt, sign up for the boot camp. The advantages of this approach are:

  - she'll find out if this is something she really wants to do before plunking down thousands of dollars
  - with a bit of background knowledge, she'll be better able to absorb what's being taught at the bootcamp
  - she'll have a better idea of what she wants to specialize in and can select the right boot camp for her
Also, find the community she wants to join. There are a gazillion places where web devs hang out online and talk shop. While doing her prep work she should seek out the places appropriate to the stack she's chosen and lurk. Stay engaged through the bootcamp and during her job search afterward.

Finally, pay attention to open source. Not a lot of professions do their work out in the open like that, so take the opportunity to see how the sausage is made! Find the open source projects that these communities contribute to, and watch them do it. Follow the discussions on mailing lists, Github issues and pull requests. Look at the code and try to understand the criticism arguments. Ask questions. People are shockingly willing to help newbies who are trying to understand.

The bottom line is, there is real value in getting an expert to teach her how to code, but the more work she puts in herself, before, during and after the bootcamp the more she'll get out of it. If she's looking to pay $15K and get a high-paying job in exchange, she'll just waste the money.

Which one?

Key things are:

- you get out what you put in. attending a boot camp is not a guarantee you'll land well-paying job. you have to demonstrate to a new employer you've mastered the skills to help their company

- depending on the bootcamp, it will take 8-10 hours a day. your social life aside from the days off will be shot. and the days off are spent doing laundry and playing catch-up on life

- don't neglect your fitness. since you're inside 8-10 hours a day, go to a gym and sweat for balance. otherwise you might suffer from burnout

- save up for at least 3 months of joblessness after the bootcamp while you look for work

- ask the bootcamp if they do interview prep. while it's cheating the system in some ways, it's extremely helpful for people who haven't been through the interview process. if you don't think well on your feet, or suffer test anxiety, this may be an issue

- lastly, if she hasn't done any programming at all, it'd be prudent to sign up for a local junior college course, or udemy to see if she actually likes doing it. i have a friend who talks all day about joining a coding school, took a python course, and realized it's not for him. it's better than accumulating more educational debt

Before going through a dev-bootcamp, I recommend (especially if you're a coder already) to get her through Learn Python The Hard Way.


Best case it'll take less than a month (2 exercises per day, 52 exercises), is basically free, and if she's happy with everything at the end of it, she'll be FAR more prepared to jump feet-first into a dev bootcamp.

I compare learning to program to learning a language. 99hrs of having French slapped across your face won't make you a native French speaker, it's a long road to proficiency and mastery. Neither will 99hrs of Programming make you a native "Programmer".

However I'd pick someone who went through that 99hr drill over most people who hadn't even started.

I could not resist...

but do you want to confuse her with python2 vs python3? When python2 should be out of the question, even if it's default on macOS. Though to be fair the difference should be learned, but it shouldn't be promoted to learn python2 for beginners. It will just confuse them. Even though many years have passed, but I think soon many libraries and frameworks will not support python2 at all (e.g. Django's next version will not), any new code I write - I write it in python3 and never think about python2.

The LPTHW is built for beginners in a sense, that it's easy to read and follow, though author is extremely __butthurt__[0] against python3 [1]. I guess it's the authors _shtick_ to be extremely opinionated, to a degree of incoherent blabber [1].

[0] sorry for my language

[1] https://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/nopython3.html

P.S. Though "Appendix A: Command Line Crash Course"[2] is probably one of the best promotions and intros into CLI .. and that is very useful to learn, instead of locking yourself as a beginner into some IDE.

[2] https://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/appendixa.html

Your remarks are extremely sound. The good news is that LPTHW is now Python 3[1] :)

[1] https://learnpythonthehardway.org/python3/

That's good news. Though it's still not complete

Before in examples there were stuff like this:

    $ python -V
    Python 2.5.x

We've hired a few people from bootcamps. I admit that I was a bit skeptical going in, but I am very happy with everyone we have hired from that direction.

There is nothing in CS that you can't learn on your own and/or on the job. You do not need a school to teach you. Having said that, you need to want to learn this stuff and it is a long road. Decades after I graduated, I'm still learning new things (especially math -- since I sucked at it in school). So my first piece of advice: Realise that after a boot camp you will not know enough, nor have enough experience to really be qualified to do the job. Anybody who picks you up is taking a chance that you will grow into the job. Attitude is by far your biggest selling point.

If you go in with a hunger for learning and infectious enthusiasm, you will be a benefit to your team, even while being under qualified. If you go in thinking, "I don't really know if I want to do this, but it seems like an easy job that pays well", just stop now. I really can't stress that enough. Don't pay thousands of dollars to go to a boot camp to see if you want to do this stuff. Like I said, you can boot your own camp trivially. Computer + Internet + passion for learning will get you there. A good boot camp can really help you focus and point you to efficient ways of learning, but it can't give you the drive you need to succeed. My second piece of advice is to experiment first.

Finally, all of the people we have hired from bootcamps have had experience in other industries. Let me put it bluntly: They know how to show up to work every day and put in a full day's work. They know how to show up to meetings on time and pay attention. They know how to deal with difficult political situations. They know how to avoid being hung over on a weekday. Finally, they have experience being in a job that they hate and they have spent considerable amount of time and effort understanding what they want from a career.

My final advice: Don't graduate from school and go straight to a boot camp, unless you know for sure that you missed the boat and are desperate to be a programmer. Get some experience in the job world. Save some money. Think critically about what you want from your career. Then if you still want to make the jump, go ahead. Like I said, computers and the internet are everywhere these days, so it's not going to stop you from learning on your own.

I wouldn't be discouraging here or 'looking for alternatives'. I'd be congratulating her on entering a field with a low supply and high demand for talent. This industry pays very well and we need more female developers. So why would this be a bad choice? (rhetorical question - actually this may be a horrible choice, but keep reading)

I completed an online coding bootcamp about 5 years ago and got a job almost immediately afterwards. I've since become a Lead Dev for a local SaaS company, a mentor at that same school I graduated from, and a part time curriculum contributor.

This level of skepticism towards coding bootcamps is fair. I've seen some horror stories. But here is the thing: All failures involving more than 2 parties are usually the fault of both parties. Here is what I mean:

I'm currently mentoring about 5 students. Out of those 5, 4 are doing incredibly well. They are picking up the concepts, putting them into practice, and showing true growth. 1 of them is struggling hard. What is the difference? Well, in my opinion the difference is motivation. The 1 that is struggling did well his first few months, but when it got hard, he just wanted to start applying for jobs with what little he had learned. He didn't want to put in the work to finish his education. He was solely focused on the $$$ and not the thrill of solving problems with code.

So how could she decide if she will actually enjoy learning to code vs become someone that is only excited b/c of the money? Easy - try the free/cheap stuff first:

1. Codecademy.com 2. Codeschool.com 3. Lynda.com 4. Learn_____TheHardWay.com

The list goes on for a while. Tell her to sign up for one or two of the courses here and build something from start to finish. Nothing major. A todo list webapp, simple blog, or the like will do.

Then ask here: "Can you see yourself doing this 8 hours per day/5 days per week? If she can give you an honest 'yes', then offer her all the support you can give. If she hesitates, have her do more of the cheap/free stuff till it is clear. If it is a no, then it is a no.

Hope this helps. Sorry for the wall of text.

If she wants to be a software engineer, tell her to teach herself. I think the reason why many of the graduates don't get jobs is because Tech is really hard, and almost all of it you have to figure out yourself to be a good engineer. A lot of the boot camp attendees are the type that need to be taught, it actually looks better if you teach yourself. It shows your independence and drive, which are very hirable qualities in Tech. That said a good mentor can go a long way too (there are plenty of those for free as well) :)

I've been developing for 12+ years in many different languages & frameworks. I don't code much anymore due to having to support myself financially, but I certainly didn't find that anyone was impressed with the fact that I taught myself. I never got an offer and likewise ended up choosing the boring but well paying supervisor position in an unrelated field.

I think that probably has more to do with how you market yourself. Me and two of my friends all taught ourselves and all of us work on major top level projects now only about 3 years later. I think my point is that there is a type of person that makes a really good software engineer and those types of people typically don't need a coding bootcamp. If you market yourself as having found your passion and built a lot of awesome stuff on your own I guarantee that you will have work.

I just want to point out that anyone giving advice on this issue, as with anything else, will have their own personal biases. For example HN has a high percentage of startups and "bleeding edge" tech companies which may value skillsets and credentials differently then say a midwest enterprise software company. If your cousin needs advice gaining entry to midwest enterprise companies, it may be more valuable to pose this question locally or else risk giving the wrong advice to your cousin.

My answer would depend on several factors.

Has she ever tried coding, and if so does she see herself enjoying it as something she'd be doing several hours a day?

What is her reason for an interest in programming? Is it an interest in tech, solving big problems with tech, money, something else?

Would she be OK knowing that the job search for a bootcamp grad with no prior coding experience may be rather challenging (many grads go to work for the bootcamp itself, which is mutually beneficial as it boost placement stats while also giving the grad a job)?

How is her financial situation? Can she absorb a hit?

Is she incredibly bright and dedicated to the point of potentially being able to enter the field based on n months of self-directed education for free (MOOCs, online tutorials, videos, books, etc)?

The question is a bit more complex than it seems.

My company has hired several coding boot camp alumni; some directly from bootcamps, some after a coding bootcamp + some years of work as a dev. We've had good results and most of the grads I know have had positive experiences.

It's important to note that coding bootcamps are not created remotely equally -- some have stringent application requirements, whereas many are essentially scams / chop shops. I strongly caution against the latter.

In particular, at least one bootcamp that I know of only charges tuition after you get a job as a software engineer, and charges a % of your first year's salary. It's a really great way to align incentives between the bootcamp, students, and employers and I'm a particular fan of this program.

I'd be grateful for specific pointers on vetting the camps. The one in question is legally an LLC, with no industry sponsors, but some association with a local religious college. Interested to see your positive view on the percent of salary tuition arrangement. There are at least two such camps: in SF, and in Seattle.

Have seen good results from App Academy (in NYC in particular) - they follow the business model that I mentioned above. I don't know the details of all the bootcamp alums on my team, and am also unfamiliar with the tuition structures of different bootcamps. My info is also about 2 years out of date.

IMO these bootcamps are producing a basically undifferentiated product curriculum-wise (which, by the way can be learned via self-teaching on the internet). Only a few have real brand recognition. Drive, curiosity, raw horsepower, etc are a lot more important.

For specific pointers: your cousin should speak to as many recent alumni of various programs as she can to ensure that she has a legit program on her hands. Speaking with hiring managers is a good bet as well; "I've never heard of that place" is bad; "That place is a scam" is worse. She should also ask what the pass/fail rate is for students in the program. High graduation rate + upfront payment is arguably bad (shows they're incentivized to just get you out the door).

Best of luck!

Dev Bootcamp circa 2013 alumnus here.

I can't speak for how bootcamps are now, or the state in which DBC exists in 2017, but I can say that my cohort(s) were made up of lots of men and women and people ranging from border-line genius level to those with no programming experience. Those who came out and landed careers were the same individuals who had the drive and the passion, plain & simple. A person looking to be handed knowledge on a silver platter, eventually leading to a golden key to land a job, will be sadly mistaken no matter what kind of school they go to.

As others have said, it would be good for her to start learning to program on her own so she can see if she actually has any interest. It will sound cruel for me to say this but, if she hasn't already taken the initiative herself, the chances are low that she's cut out for it. Note that what I said just now is strictly my opinion. It certainly doesn't mean it's too late for her to begin now, but the drive is super important. This is coming from someone who went into a field knowing very little about it but expecting that passing the courses was going to land them a high-paying job. I switched to programming because I was forced to look in my heart and decide whether or not I was going to struggle to bestow bad art on to the world(as if there isn't too much already) for some short-lived glory. Plus I was already programming and already had the drive; I just needed reality and some good people to give me a good kick in the right direction for me.

Determining the legitimacy of a boot camp is difficult. I don't know that you really can. But what I got out of my boot camp was not so much an education but the space and the resources to accelerate my process into taking a full dive into web development, Agile, etc. On a technical level, there's almost nothing that a boot camp does that you can't get out of an online course. Heck, you could form your own "boot camp" with a Meetup group and spend maybe 1/100 the amount you'd spend on a boot camp tuition. A person has to go into a boot camp expecting a space, resources, and some leadership, rather than a concrete curriculum. At the end of the day, you can work for a company and not even include your education on your resume so long as the work that you have done stands out.

Someone I know graduated from Hackbright, the bootcamp for women that has a decent reputation but also fairly expensive. It's been a couple of years and she hasn't gotten a programming job, I don't even mention it anymore.

So your mileage might vary. I'm deeply skeptical of anyone from a bootcamp, to be honest. I think if you can really learn something and get your foot int the door with a small startup, then it opens the doors, but it's also hard without signficant amount of dedication.

In defense of Hackbright, I have hired multiple grads from there and had we had the room, hired more great candidates we talked to and all were great. Consistently produced good candidates. Just like any class though, there's going to be a distribution in results.

Why do you feel the need to stop her from going? She's not going to become a master at computers, but maybe it will spark an interest in the field. It seems like this is always the case with people either forcing coding onto people or trying to persuade people to not even touch a computer. Just let people do what they want.

For beginners, it's critical to learn concepts of software development instead of the syntax memorization and regurgitation that seems popular to collect like scout badges. The fewer syntaxes one has to learn in the beginning, to do the most, the better. To keep a list to the minimum, I'd probably start with HTML, a bit of CSS, and then go to Javascript to teach web and then mobile development.

I am not a day to day js framework/backend guy.

I hear you on that -- I've been looking for a path that starts with the best-structured languages, as vehicles for learning the more powerful concepts: static vs dynamic typing et al. So, Golang, Python, or Typescript. School in question is a bit behind the curve -- "PHP/MySQL".

PHP/MySQL is fine to learn to build web apps too. The problem is when you have to learn 30 different things in some languages to create your own stack (Ruby, node, etc) for beginners.

> Any alternative ideas?

From the comments so far, I think there's some confusion about what you mean by this.

Are you trying to dissuade her? Motivate her? You're neutral, but asking for suggestions of things she might do to satiate coding desires other than a 'boot camp'?

A few months previous I suggested online self-instruction, but didn't hear back on the idea. Perhaps some people prefer the social structure of a classroom for learning.

Why do you need alternative ideas? You could just let her go to what she wants to. We technology people seem to have this built in need to get people to try other things than what they want to do. It's a form of controlling behaviour.

Would you say the same if she wanted to go to an expensive acting workshop that promises she will land a job with Hollywood in just 12 weeks? (And that might not even be a lie, since someone needs to be the extra that gets shot in the first 5 seconds.)

Not saying all or even most coding boot camps are like that, but based on my reading of HN submissions, some definitely do overpromise and underdeliver.

Finding potentially more fitting ways of getting into the field could simply be helping out.

A sincere question that I have often: what if the jobs these people land (and that many that we here do) are _not_ Hollywoodian at all? What if that does indicate that a lot of the things we can do can be done by someone with this level of experience and aptitude?

Related: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-co...

I need alternative ideas because I was asked what I thought about the school in question. Not sure it would be proper netiquette to mention the name.

Having alternatives is always a good thing. Plus being a 'young' cousin, they have graduated so they are 18 or 22 and can judge alternatives for themselves.

Try pyschools.com or codeschool.com and see how much she gets it on her own. I truly believe being a programmer is a third logical intuition another third resourcefulness, and lastly discipline. She has to be able to demonstrate them all and the websites I pointed to (especially the former) will certainly test her.

A friend of mine used to teach at one of those programs. He quit because he got sick of parroting placement numbers he knew were fraudulent.

The ones who got good jobs were good applicants. They would have gotten the Dev job anyway. The ones who weren't strong got swept under the rug.

Your cousin might do better taking a year of CS classes and working on outside projects

She should not go in cold. She should work through "Learn Python the Hard Way" or Chris Pine's Learn to Program first, at least, before committing to something like this. I did a bootcamp some time ago. Everyone who came in completely cold failed the program. Standards now might be such that she survives the program, but she will be unhirable. If it's a finishing school after putting in much work on her own, then maybe it makes sense. Assume every number you see related to job placement to be fraudulent at some level. Getting a job coming out is likely to be difficult - the market is saturated with bootcamp grads. All that being said, if she finds out she really, really likes programming before starting the bootcamp, puts in months of work beforehand, and is willing to put in thousands of hours outside of work in the years that follow, then go for it.

No familiarity with bootcamps specifically but, even with more traditional CS degree programs, this seems to be good advice. I don't program professionally but have done some on the side for a long time.

Even checking out some of the "Intro to Programming" MOOCs from better institutions, it was pretty obvious to me that I'd have been utterly overwhelmed going into any of these cold as a student. If even a text editor or a command line is a new experience, there's just too much foundational knowledge/experience that has to be gained to move forward with what you're actually supposed to be learning.

(I know there have been efforts at places like CMU to teach intro courses that are actually real intro courses.)

(Foreword: I went through a bootcamp, had a positive experience).

The only reason not to go through a bootcamp, presuming it is reputable, is price sensitivity. They offer better value than a college degree (salary offer wise, both for technical and non-technical roles in tech industry), accelerate the pace of early-stage learning, and create healthy habits that are distinct to programming (e.g. tests, debugging, pseudo-code).

Long list of positive reasons here, as long as mindset going in isn't "I'm going to be a developer in 9 weeks" (true only on the loosest definition of the word).

Mattering your location and whats around I would advise meetups and/or hackerspaces. It would give your cousin a good feel for the local environment. As well she might meet some people that try the boot camp out. If she does do the boot camp I would advise her to do some self study before hand. These boot camps try to cram as much info they can into a short period of time. She would probably get more out of the boot camp if she tries to learn coding on her own first. There is a ton of free resources she can try before hand.

Actually I think this self-learning approach is a great example of what it takes to be a great developer regardless of background (or formal training).


She built one project each day for 180 days learning a bit more each day. She chronicled her mistakes and successes. HN had a post on it at the time and the majority of developers that responded were very supportive.

Taking for granted most of the other answers here ('make sure she has tried and likes coding' et c.): Have her look up reviews of the program on https://www.coursereport.com/ and www.switchup.org. Have her visit local meetups and conferences, there will surely be students/grads there that she can talk to and can get eyewitness reports from. Have her ask around to disinterested third parties that have had contact with the program and see what their appraisal of the program is. Have her contact the program and see if they will provide contacts to grads that she can talk to (while they may be biased, a 'yes' is much better that a 'no'). (Full disclosure: I went to a bootcamp and got a good job very soon afterwards which I have had for a year. True, some programs are shady, but these seem to shut down quickly. A bit of research seems like all that needs to be done to make a decision and if it works for her there is no reason to worry.)

I did one and had a bad experience; I still think they are worthwhile.

Much like colleges the rigor varies a lot BUT unlike colleges you're class will have a massive impact on your educatoion.

I studied a lot before I went in, it is highly recommended. Some other students struggled because they did not do much prep. Some students were annoyingly inquisitive and volunteered off-topic stuff frequently, eating into class time.

Have a capstone project or goal in mind when going in and try to do some pared down version for a final project(nearly all I have researched have several projects).

If you (op) can, help her get familiar w/ a dev environment. Explain things in depth and assume little. I was learning the absolute basics and someone introduced me to git, rails, terminal, scaffolding and ruby over a 10min convo. Obviously, it is great to dive in, but finding out what is important and how things work is important. Show her text editors, basic command line, git ect. Resources like hacker news, stack overflow, and maybe shell into an AWS instance.

I think they can be great, but they require a lot of prep, and a lot of research

To try FreeCodeCamp first:


Boot camp is a good supplement to college, not an alternative, so tell her to work hard and have fun, and ask lots of questions.

Freecodecamp.com is free if price is an issue.

Really found the community and structure of freeCodeCamp to be amazing for me to make progress. The actual teaching is not very detailed- they show you a little but then intend that you learn to Google and use the documentation to find stuff out. I recommend having some other source of learning in parallel with FCC. Can also be free.

Great idea. Communicating about systems and their properties is a key programming skill, which is more likely to be gained learning in a social environment such as a web dev boot camp than solo. Success will require long solo hours, but I don't think social learning is ever a bad idea... especially when changing careers.

Try looking at the consultancy end of tech. Typically, if they like your face and grades, they'll put you though an internal bootcamp, or send you somewhere, at no cost to you. Starting salary should be maybe $70k+ and up for a new grad.

This is a much better idea than dumping money into a bootcamp.

I would advise trying free/cheap lessons first. E.g. freecodecamp, Lynda, udemy, CS50x, etc.

https://www.railstutorial.org/ it's free, self-paced, with great instruction and lots of lectures/discussion scattered throughout the internet.

support hartl :)

Spend 80 hours on Lynda.com first. Then decide if coding is really where you want to be.

Tell her she should look at it as a way to beef up the "skills" part of her resume and also help her build a personal portfolio. She will not be handed a job upon finishing, but will have a better resume.

I would say: go for it! Why not? I don't actually get what's the doubt.

"Why not?"

Well, I might start at the $10-$15k price tag.

I recommend John Guttag's Intro to Computation and Programming Using Python to people interested in starting to code, as the accompanying video lectures are available on MIT OCW and the book itself is enjoyable to read. That book (+ the Django tutorial) might be a good way to get started before doing a boot camp.

As others have pointed out, there are other ways to learn the material, but it may be that the 'career day' activities, etc. are worth the price of tuition.

Read a coding book first, see if she has a nack?

Spend £10 on a Udemy (or wherever) course and see how she likes that. If she picks things up and enjoys it then maybe the boot camp will be a good idea or maybe she finds she can do it herself or maybe she finds she hates it all.

For £10 you can't really complain whatever the outcome IMHO.

Why not just apply to a master's program? She can probably get a dev job while enrolled. At least then she'll get a better signaling artifact than a boot camp certificate and probably spend less doing it.

Grit your teeth and don't give up. If the person is a she, just get a hard skin, don't let anything affect her resolve until she knows for sure if she wants to code or not.

Cool! I usually suggest people pick up a book and try learning enough to build something simple first so they get a feel for what's involved and whether they like it.

tell her to get a real job - that she can count on. sous chef. turbine maintenance mechanic. accountant.

As a chef, please only people with passion, we have enough mediocre chef's, and really the pay is shit.

waste of money, invest in either getting a new gear(high-end laptop, licenses etc...) or a recognised qualification or a cert

> As a positive point, all the females in our cohort got dev jobs, including the only one who actually failed the class. Startups are pretty aware of the gender discrepancy and actively looking to hire those with double x chromosomes. Not complaining about affirmative action, just wanted to give you as full picture as possible

You should be complaining! Especially given the rest of your story.

This kind of thing is such bull shit.

Before you down-vote me: a man passed and now works at Trader Joe's; a woman failed and got a software engineering role.

Reverse those genders, and if you're outraged, have a think about whether you should still be down-voting me.

Please don't turn thoughtful conversation into angry ranting on HN, especially not about classic flamewar topics. It takes the site in exactly the opposite of its intended direction.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13741232 and marked it off-topic.

> Please don't turn thoughtful conversation into angry ranting on HN, ... [we have] marked it off-topic.

I understand your decision. Respectfully, though, I think this sub-thread about the relative prospects candidates (and how it relates to culture more generally) is on-topic for the discussion here on considering enrolment in coding 'boot camps'.

As always however, your call. :)

Maybe the women just hustled harder. I know that was the case in the program I went through. 30 of us passed; 3 were women. All 3 women and about 20% of the men got good industry jobs. However, I and the other two women were hustling for jobs, sending resumes, networking and going to interviews 6 months before graduation. Most of the men, assuming they were telling the truth when I casually asked them about it, didn't even start to write their resumes until the resume-writing workshop during the last week of school. Of the men who got jobs, one was given a position by his brother who had a hip startup; 3 showed up to a FAST consulting recruiting event and all three got hired there; one already had a degree in software engineering and a job waiting for him at his old employer; and several others went back to their old jobs as well.

It's entirely possible that the women just hustled harder, thus explaining while all the qualified ones were hired.

The problem is with the one who failed the class. What do we know about her? We know that she either was too lazy to pass the class--implying she doesn't hustle--or she is simply unable to pass the class, implying she isn't qualified.

Combine this with the current political climate, in which a company looks like its trying to solve problems if it employs more women; and the fact that women joining male-dominated fields tends to cause a reduction in wages in those fields, and the fact that this seemingly unqualified and/or non-hustling woman was hired while many men were not, and its suggestive of a gender bias.

That is not to say the other women who were hired aren't qualified or don't deserve those jobs. Merely that there may exist a gender bias which is problematic in that it is focusing a particular outcome (equality of gender) at the expense of economic sense and efficiency; not to mention the personal expense of the qualified men and also at the expense of the unqualified woman who, if such a bias exists, is really being exploited.

It's also possible that she had qualifications in the industry she was hired for besides web design. It's not suggestive of bias at all - it simply tells us that there's something about the candidates that we don't know.

Anything is possible, but gender bias seems a much likelier conclusion than that she was hired as a dev because she has skills other than dev.

> Maybe the women just hustled harder.

Doubt that explains it.

I went through a large software development course, about 70 people. 60-40 male-female. Was a positive experience. The women all landed jobs instantly. As in, the day the camp ended, they all had jobs. The men, mostly, did not. It took months and multiple interviews for the men to get hired.

The demand for female developers is higher than the demand for male developers. (not that the demand for male developers is low). This doesn't particularly bother me, but it does appear to be a thing.

The way I look at it, most of the personal attributes that get you an entry-level job will end up having nothing to do with how well you will perform in that job. Gender is just another one of those.

40% female? That's extremely high. Wonder how they accomplished that.

That seems like a reasonable ratio considering that bootcamps are a popular way for women to break into the industry.

No, it is not a typical ratio. Bootcamps often have cohorts where there are 10 percent or even fewer women. For a bootcamp to have 40 percent ratio is impressive and unusual. Also - remarkable for all women to have a job at graduation. The bootcamp described sounds very unusual and the numbers are so very different from industry standard - that I encourage anyone reading to do their own research.

Which sites do you suggest for research?

I suggest talking to most recent grads of a program as things change all the time. For example, schools which previously had good placement may hugely expand number of cohorts - and not scale out job-finding resources or company partnerships.

Maybe so. But your experience is slightly different from what I'm objecting to most - which was a woman failing the programme and getting a development job, while men passed and no jobs or irrelevant jobs.

No amount of hustle puts a candidate that failed a 'boot camp' above one that passed in a merit-based evaluation.

Unless she got hired in an industry where she already had experience, and the bootcamp qualification was only tangential to that.

"One already had a degree in software engineering..." There's a whole other issue right there.

You can conclude whatever you want from it, but in this case the gentleman in question had a good government job with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, where he still works, as far as I know. He left his job temporarily to take a 2-year programming diploma on top of his software engineering degree. I don't think he did it to get a job since he already had one. It was more that his whole department was on the chopping block under the previous federal administration, and he thought it would be wise to get off of their payroll for a couple of years to avoid losing his job altogether. As far as I can tell it worked, as the federal administration has changed and he still has his job.

I promise, there wasn't any sexism involved.

Sorry, I was not being clear - I wasn't thinking of sexism, but what a person with a software engineeing degree was doing at a programming boot camp. I realize that software engineering is not programming, but if the term has any meaning, I would expect anyone with such a degree to know enough about what it takes to make software as to be able to pick up common languages by self-study. Your reply hints that his attendance at boot camp might be as much about certification and documented hands-on experience as education.

Ah, I see. Yes, you're right. I wondered what he was doing there myself. The "keeping my government job" story was reasonable, but you'd think he could have found a private industry job easily enough.

I observed 3 things about women in boot camps that explain this phenomena outside of affirmative action:

1. They are self selecting to jump into the known gender gap in engineering.

2. Perhaps due to 1, they generally came from STEM backgrounds in great universities (Stanford, Michigan, UCLA, etc).

3. They had better final project presentations and projects than average. Perhaps due to 1 and 2.

If they were driven, had a previous math/EE/mech E degree from a top university, and a great GitHub project why wouldn't you hire them?

> If they were driven, had a previous math/EE/mech E degree from a top university, and a great GitHub project why wouldn't you hire them?

The woman in the example given in this thread failed; so certainly wasn't 'previous...degree from a top university' calibre.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not in anyway 'against success' for any woman. The sort of merit-based hiring you described is exactly what everyone should be doing.

But if candidate A is better than candidate B: hire candidate A! Whatever their gender, or fit for whatever other quota; scrap the damn quotas and targets.

The only targets should be relevant capabilities, traded off against cost of course.

> This kind of thing is such bull shit.

> Before you down-vote me: a man passed and now works at Trader Joe's; a woman failed and got a software engineering role.

There's no reason to be outraged by a single anecdote. There are dozens or even hundreds of factors that qualify a person for a job beyond both their raw coding skill and gender.

If someone is taking a job at Trader Joe's because they can't find a programming job, there's a good chance there's a reason for that.

He said his cousin was female so I just wanted to highlight a positive for her.

But you bring up a good point.

one of my female friends who is from the same class as I and is less proficient than me on almost all levels is getting inundated with offers from any tech company of her choice. Meanwhile, I barely get a callback from the recruiter, some of them pomise to call at certain time and never call, adding insult to injury.

Kind of infuriating given both her parents are practising physicians and her whole education was completely paid for, unlike most people who have student debt staring them in the eye.

I downvoted you for being smart enough to expect downvotes, but not to see the first, most absolutely obvious rejoinder to the facile argument you presented.

Sample size of 1 each way? Sure, I suppose the quote just encapsulated something I frequently see, and think is beyond idiotic.

I'm young enough that the world I see being prepared for those not that much younger than me is, I think, going to be completely reversed from the motivation for the change.

I've tried to sign up for (technical) events and talks at my university because they sounded interesting, only to be told 'this is a women-only event'.

It would never even occur to me to hold a 'men-only talk on the latest foobar technique'; I suspect if I did, and refused to change my access policy, I'd be widely disparaged and perhaps kicked out!

Equality - fine. Positive discrimination is just discrimination, and at some point it will be 'traditional, negative' discrimination.

It's like the equality v equity cartoon - only the smaller box doesn't exist, and the middle-size child isn't short enough to qualify for a box: http://interactioninstitute.org/illustrating-equality-vs-equ...

> Sample size of 1 each way?

That's not even it. Not only is it a sample size of 1, you are responding to a situation you know nothing about. Why did she fail? You have no idea, because it's not even your own anecdote. The fact that you're willing to jump in with "that is such bullshit" without even having the barest picture of the situation shows that your response is 1% motivated by the anecdote and 99% from your own biases and emotions about the issue.

In other words, your response says more about you than about the story.

It's called "positive discrimination" for a reason. We're positively discriminating to the benefit of women (or minorities, or whomever) now, to make up for the decades of negative discrimination that these groups have suffered.

Don't think it's fair? Interesting feeling, eh. Not very nice, eh. Be glad you haven't suffered it for literally your entire life.

>Be glad you haven't suffered it for literally your entire life.

Modern feminism increasingly seems to be an ideology based on the idea that women are always victims.

You've just described positive discrimination, and implied that you think it's a good thing.

Then you imply that you think women suffer unfairness for "literally your entire life". Which is it? You've either been a victim your entire life or you've benefitted from positive discrimination, in which case you probably need to stop acting like a victim.

The idea of giving someone an unfair advantage because someone like them possibly had an unfair disadvantage is ludicrous.

Based on your logic, in a generation from now we're going to have to start positively discriminating in favour of men, to make up for the fact that men are currently being discriminated against.

I understand what you're saying. To dig into it a little more, do you think there is structural (as opposed to intentional) gender discrimination, and if so, should it be corrected? Please don't hesitate to answer "no" if that's what you believe. My goal in conversations like this is to better understand each other, not score points or make judgements.

If it should be corrected, what specifically (i.e., what implementation) would you propose to do so? This whole issue is so contentious that I find people don't get much further beyond the surface disagreements.


At least in my country, all of the ways that females can be discriminated against in the workforce that are usually brought up are illegal.

(Pay gaps for the same work, promotions, sexual harassment, etc)

Yet people still complain they are problems. At this point, the onus is not on the rest of society to continue to try and make things easier for literally more than half the population. The onus is on the people being discriminated against to actually stand up for themselves and aggressively puruse legal action if they are the victims they claim to be.

For me personally, I find it quite ridiculous to hear people talking about all the gender stereotypes that exist today (and the discrimination that comes alongside them) and how we need action action action to solve them as if they are still problems.

My dad cooked more than my mum. I was picked on by girls at school. The girls always were told it's fine if they wanted to play a sport more dominated by guys, but god forbid a guy try to play sport with the girls. Rather than being discriminated against, the girls I know who went into software got given hugely preferential treatment over the guys and are routinely given better opportunities.

In everyone's effort to undo gender discrimination, they've forgotten that the aim is not to swing the pendulum to the other side, but instead to bring it back to the middle and treat people on their own individual merits.

At least in my country, all of the ways that females can be discriminated against in the workforce that are usually brought up are illegal.

For the sake of comparison, what country are you referring to?

Australia. It's all covered under the Sex Discrimination Act.


Most importantly, I think that even if structural discrimination exists, artificially penalising other people is not the way to rectify it.

On whether structural discrimination exists, the question feels like a trap (even if not intentional) since we could probably spend hours arguing about what "structural" actually means.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, in general, I don't think it does exist anymore, in the western world. Gender discrimination against women is now both socially taboo and illegal. And yet this perceived victimhood is increasingly used to justify very real (and openly practised) discrimination against men.

We're going to raise a generation of young men who are continually told how "privileged" they are, while feeling anything but privileged.

Thanks for taking the time to address the questions I raised.

the question feels like a trap

Would you elaborate as to how you mean, in particular how I could have phrased it better? I sometimes struggle with how much qualification is necessary when posing questions like this: not enough and a question can come across as pointed, too much and it's just tedious. I'd like to strike the right balance.

One issue your answers do point out is that in this discussion you and 'jen729w are likely working from different premises: I doubt 'jen729w would be talking about positive discrimination if they didn't think there was some sort of discrimination occurring that needed correcting. Given that, disagreeing over solutions is likely inevitable, as you disagree there's discrimination that needs to be corrected for at all. I think it would be better to be upfront about that, so you can either figure out a common understanding you're working from (whether or not there's an issue with discrimination to be solved) before discussing any issues with potential solutions. For example, there's no reason not to ask 'jen729w what their understanding of the problem is. I think this kind of problem happens quite often when discussing contentious issues, which is unfortunate because I think it tends to make the issue worse rather than better.

Thanks again! I appreciate it.

> Be glad you haven't suffered it for literally your entire life.

I am. I'm young enough, though, that I'm acutely aware that the roles are going to be completely reversed for men not that much younger.

I've been unable to attend technical talks at my university that sounded interesting, because they're 'women-only'. There are exclusive events, clubs, networking for women - but of course there aren't equivalents for men! Disassociate yourself from the poor fool who dare suggest such a horrid thing!

I'm all for equality, but manifestly not for 'positive discrimination'. At some point, the tables will turn, and the generation of men below me will perhaps have this feeling of having 'suffered it for literally [their] entire life', and will want to positively discriminate back.

Or, we could just consider people on their merits, rather than their gender. Y'know, what women say they want?

I'm all for equality, but manifestly not for 'positive discrimination'.

Control theory-wise, perhaps it's demonstrably impossible to obtain the former without some measure of the latter, unfortunately.

My car pulls to the right slightly, I turn the steering wheel slightly to the left to adjust. We do that in society, folks start to complain. I have to suspect they're not out to fix society, but rather to preserve their good position in it.

Or instead of a band-aide solution you could just get an alignment and solve the underlying issue.

Something seems off to me intuitively about "positive discrimination", as you've described it. It doesn't really seem fair to be unfair to an individual because, in the aggregate, that individual's group has been unfair to others in the past (and even the present). Sort of feels like an emotionally charged way of righting the wrong, rather than a rational one...or even an effective one.

This remembers me of how germans has to hear quietly about their nazi grandparents.

Given Male 1 and Female 1 wherein female 1 was unfairly discriminated against. How does it follow that if you unfairly privilege female 2 in favor of male 2 that you have somehow made up for the original injustice.

A rational though process would be that this just adds to the sum of injustice in the world.

I'm perhaps presuming to much but with a name that begins with Jen which is often a short or familiar form of Jennifer I would have to wonder if you yourself are in favor of "positive discrimination" because you yourself have suffered from plain old discrimination the bad and in fact only form of discrimination there is.

They're my initials. I'm a 40 year old white English guy called John.

I believe my life thus far has been tremendously more easy than a 40 year old black woman's would have been. Do you disagree?

Edit: here's a concrete example. I've basically been offered every job interview I've gone for. I'm good at my job, no doubt, but in some of those cases I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been the strongest candidate.

But - forgive me if I sound like an asshole, I'm trying to make a point - I'm charming. I'm white, I smile, I dress well, and that makes me safe. I'm a safe option. Unsure who to hire? Hire that nice white guy.

This is the systemic, subliminal discrimination that positive discrimination is trying to address. I shouldn't be the default option just because I'm the white guy. I've had my time. Let's give the "hey we're not sure, so if in doubt hire the black lady" option a go. Fuck it, it can't hurt.

Now, I do absolutely disagree with PD where it favours a clearly inferior candidate just because of their race/gender/etc. That is clearly wrong, and gets people upset, and I see why and I agree.

It's a nuanced issue. But if you deny that there's an issue, or try to sweep it under the carpet, I believe you're being disingenuous at best.

> I believe my life thus far has been tremendously more easy than a 40 year old black woman's would have been. Do you disagree?

The "funny" thing is that we are heading to a situation where the "positive" discrimination in favor of women will affect the weak side, the black/brown man, and they are not privilleged, of course. Now we have double negative discrimination.

BTH, if it wasn't so common for women to waste lot of hours everyday with cosmetic and aesthetic stuff, they would have more time to study computers and suffer less harassment. Win-win.

If its not favoring the weaker candidate its not discrimination positive or otherwise its plain old judgement. You are saying that you are in favor of discrimination or somehow used as a sort of tie breaker which is kind of silly frankly.

None is denying that there is a problem.

But people are upset because there is a PD that is favouring inferior candidate. In this case woman who failed. Of course a lot of assumptions, but still it looks like this.

I would fire someone for hiring based on a physical characteristic (for knowledge work). It's idiotic. It sounds no better than random.

If you can distinguish it from the average, then it's worse than random (that is, going with or against the average case uniformly at random).

Not the right mindset either. Positive discrimination is actually negative for the groups that you are leaving out.

Just focus in looking for candidates that are objectively competent at what they are supposed to do and fit in your culture. If you do it in an unbiased way then most groups should be represented.

Have you heard of the Equal Employment Opportunity commission? call them and tell them about your positive discrimination idea, they will surely like it... since you are in violation of EEO laws (sex discrimination = preferring females to males is as illegal as preferring males to females).


If you do, you will have a hard time proving that setting higher requirements for male employees is not unfavorable discrimination against them.

That's nonsense. It's illegal to discriminate based on gender.

Your idea of a "make good" policy doesn't align with the laws nor does it make sense to punish people that have nothing to do with any prior discriminations made against the group you are advocating breaking the law for.

> It's illegal to discriminate based on gender.

And yet, it's only seen as a problem if it's to favour the incumbent advantaged.

Alt view: for at least the last 500 years of Western civilization, women have always had a more comfortable and safer life than an equivalent man living at the same time and of the same class. Men died in wars, suffered injury and death in jobs, etc.

There's money in software development and women want it.

Note the lack of "positive discrimination" for jobs like coal mining, or any other profession on the top ten most dangerous jobs..?

> Note the lack of "positive discrimination" for jobs like coal mining, or any other profession on the top ten most dangerous jobs..?

You don't even have to go to the 'top ten most dangerous' - when did you last see a female plumber, electrician, gas technician, builder?

I was recently telling someone (female) that I was waiting in for an electrician. I said something like 'so when he comes', then said 'or she, sorry I don't know' - but then I realised actually, you know what I do know, the electrician is going to be a man and not because it's so hard to 'break into', but because women/feminists don't care about doing it.

Of course there are similar examples the other way around - male nurses or primary school teachers are examples to a lesser extent.

It's not really a problem, but we should at least be honest about what we mean.


You are the real troll here. What he said is right. Don't you think men in coal mining would also prefer work with software development?

The troll point is that there are no programmes to get women into mining (or other high risk / low pay industry) - that's untrue, and it's easy to check with a simple web search.

It's lazy, and it's so frequently used and debunked that it's indistinguishable from trolling at this point.

No, it is not. You pointed a false equivalence. Do for me the web search that points women struggling for the right to work in coal mining, be sent by hundred of thousands to war and things like that. This don't happen (and shouldn't!). We are animals, after all, and the biology demands from us (both woman and man) different things. If men could get pregnant, I could bet with you that this would be a good reason to have women into mining. Thanks god, we can't. It is a harder job than coal mining.

> Do for me the web search that points women struggling for the right to work in coal mining


> be sent by hundred of thousands to war

Women have campaigned hard to be allowed to go into "front line combat"; they're already sent to war:



For the rest, do your own searching. These are very easy to find.


thats not a site for women * struggling for the right to work in coal mining*, contrast that to womenwhocode.


> WIM (UK) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting and progressing the development of women in the mining and minerals sector.

> Created in 2006, WIM (UK) now counts over 1,500 members, from all corners of mining-related businesses and professions.

>Mining is dominated by men. A survey by Women in Mining found that 12 per cent of executives in the industry were female and that, without intervention.

executives. no one wants to inhale coal dust, i suppose.

> Women have campaigned hard to be allowed to go into "front line combat"

That's rather a separate issue, though. That's not just alleged bias, it's categorically blocking them based on evidence suggesting lower effectiveness of mixed-gender teams in combat roles.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but what's being campaigned against is very different from 'technical companies are not hiring enough women'.

Men can suffer from discrimination too. You sound like you read some bad, echo-chambery stuff TBH.

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