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Ask HN: Does a bootcamp make sense for someone with 20 years experience?
38 points by Ididntdothis 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments
I had a conversation this weekend that made me think a little. It was with someone who had just finished a 12 week bootcamp and had received offers in the range of 100k-150k without much prior experience. I have >20 years experience and at the moment I work at a medical device company making a little more than 150k without much prospect for advancement.

I have applied at a few jobs lately but I don't have much to show for the currently fashionable technologies and it seems saying "I can catch up in a few weeks/months" doesn't cut it anymore these days. Being 50 years old doesn't help much either probably.

I am wondering now if I did a bootcamp myself if that would get me up to speed with current stuff and open up new job opportunities. If people without experience are employable after 12 weeks I think I should do even better because I will understand the material quicker and should be able to go deeper.

i work a lot with younger people and I don't think the stereotype of young people being innovative and old people being conservative applies to me. Usually I am the one pushing my team to try new stuff and doing creative things. Unfortunately in medical progress is very slow so you pretty much always are 5-10 years behind state of the art.

So the question is: Would doing a bootcamp increase employability and possible open up higher salary ranges? Are there any that cater to experienced people? And what area to go into? I would love doing something around AI or large scale systems. Is it possible get a jumpstart there with a bootcamp?

Hope this makes sense.

PS: Trying too anticipate responses. Usually the advice is to have a network. This used to work for me but the last 10 years it slowly has dwindled because a lot of people left or had to leave the industry in the 2008 crisis.




No. Boot camps are for beginners, not people with 20 years experience. Their existence is a direct response to a lack of qualified candidates and their sole purpose is to increase the labor supply.

It is a negative to go back to boot camp for you just like it would be a negative if a research professor went back to junior high.

However, if you could find a position TEACHING at a bootcamp that would be better.


>However, if you could find a position TEACHING at a bootcamp that would be better.

I disagree. From what I've seen of bootcamp instructor postings over the years, they usually pay terrible, and OP said they're already pulling in over 150k.

It would make more sense for OP to just deep dive on modern JS web stack, or Rust, or whatever new technology they wish to become proficient in on their spare time if they must. Side projects are a great excuse to do this. Then make the career change jump after they're proficient.


Most I've seen will pay a lot of money for P/T instructors, exactly what Op should be doing with his massive amounts of experience then working the rest of the time on some research none of us can understand.


On the ageism - I feel for you man.

But I recommend not doing one. You are skilled enough that you could dedicate yourself to 3 to 6 months of serious study of the technologies you are interested in. Teach yourself by doing projects that interest you, and then use those projects as evidence of enthusiasm and experience.

Boot camps might be beneficial if you don’t feel capable of teaching yourself, but they will have so much training-wheels stuff that you are well past so it will be a mixed bag of value. Plus it costs a lot of money.

I don’t think the fact you did a bootcamp will increase your value much. Certainly not as much as self study and projects in a public git repo.


I know I could easily study up by myself. I have done this my whole life. I am just getting the impression that without being credentialed in some way nobody really would give me a chance. Especially in a new field.

My current job is pretty much repeating the same thing over and over again with ever tighter deadlines. I am at the same time stressed and bored out of my mind. There is no intellectual or technical challenge, just always more pressure. I used to be pretty cutting edge but the last 5 years it was pure stagnation.

Somehow I want to break out of this but between age and lack of the latest stuff on the resume it seems it's really difficult to get a foot in the door somewhere else.

Do people really look at GitHub repos? I have never had anybody ask and I have never looked myself.


Credentials - in my experience they just aren't a thing in software development. Apart from juniors just starting out I've never once seen a CV or a job application that mentioned any kind of programming credentials or certifications (if I understand you're meaning of "credentials" correctly?). For getting into a new area of development some ways to prove yourself are:

1. Contribute to open source codebases

2. Work on side projects

3. Convince your existing company to use a new technology so you can work on it in your day job.

Maybe others? I can't think of anything else right now..

Github profiles can be a bit hit or miss - I think probably most people don't really look at them. However if you have made meaningful contributions to open source codebases on github then you can link to those in your CV, or mention it on your covering letter or just mention it in the interview.


I think you need to find a recruiter to work closely with you. The good ones all do - ask around your former coworkers that you trust. Good recruiters will talk to you in-depth, hear what you are looking for, give resume advice, and pitch you to companies.

As a hiring manager, I would definitely be interested in your story and be looking for evidence of self-learning. What you have going against you is high salary expectations despite lack of domain expertise. So be ready to answer questions about how you have worked on various technologies over your career, had to learn them, successes you've had, etc.

Also, that job sounds horrible, you should get out for your mental well-being even if it requires a pay cut.


Not all employers will go out of their way to look at GitHub - often it's just not a clear signal either way. If you have very strong contributions though it can certainly help you stand out.

Here's some open source AI projects looking for new contributors: https://www.sourcesort.com/?refinementList%5Btopics%5D%5B0%5...


I've received job offers as a result of my github activity and contributions.


are you able to automate your tasks and open up time during your work day to work on learning projects?


>... and it seems saying "I can catch up in a few weeks/months" doesn't cut it anymore these days. Being 50 years old doesn't help much either probably.

A lot of companies have job postings that have wording to the effect of "you are proficient in xyz or are willing to learn xyz", and I see it often enough for senior positions. When I see it in the latter case, I view it as an excellent signal of a chill, mature team.

Like you I believe it should work that way. Barring the most urgent scenarios, it's largely bullshit to reject senior talent that's capable of deep diving on new stacks rapidly.

Best of luck to you.


No, do not do a bootcamp. As others have said bootcamps are for people who have never coded before. If you want to up-skill and get a job using more current technologies, then you can self study in the evenings and weekends (if your circumstances allow for it) or you can quit your job and spend a few months learning a new technology/platform/language etc. (again, if your circumstances allow and if you have enough savings to do this). It sounds like you are itching for a more fast paced (to use a cliche) environment so I would recommend you start looking at other companies to work for while trying to learn the skills necessary for those jobs.

That said, if its mainly salary that you're concerned about then 150k is a pretty good amount. Even in more "trendy" companies - there is a ceiling to how much developers earn, AFAIK the only way to earn more than ~200k as a developer is to work for a FAANG company.

Finally, don't think that just because you heard one story about somebody who got a 150k job straight out of bootcamp that this is the norm. The reality is most bootcamp grads find it extremely difficult to get a job because there is so much competition for junior developer roles these days.


In my experience ageism is a real factor. So no matter what's on your resume, once they see your grey hair, if you have any left, the negativity kicks in. Of course they won't actually say that, perhaps "too experienced" for the role? Or looking for skills in a trendier area.

Have you confirmed that people actually end up working for that sort of money after a 12 week bootcamp? From what I have heard few companies will pay that much for somebody with only having completed some bootcamp and having minimal track record. It could all be just marketing spin.

Typically if you want to switch into a new field, then not only would you need to learn the applicable technologies, but also get some experience. For example, it is rare that you could pivot your medical device experience to data science and machine learning and keep earning at least the same or more.


I can give you my anecdote of a similar situation. I was pigeonholed into a job using legacy tech a couple years ago. I quit because it was a dead end. I found a company willing to let me learn modern tools on-the-job, which I did. That ended up not panning out in the long run because of work/life balance. But that is when the story gets interesting:

My next job was the old job. I got hired back into the job I quit, but instead of being stuck on the old tech, I'm working on modernizing multiple old products, including my own legacy products, into new tech.

It wasn't the original plan, but it ended up being a 12 month sabbatical to modernize myself.


I recommend Udacity or any other type of structured learning. I personally have a difficult time learning something unless it's in a classroom-type environment or a virtual classroom.

When I was catching up to development trends bootcamps weren't around. I went to a ton of Meetups and I didn't understand a lot of what I heard. I'd note things and research them and hearing certain concepts over and over paid dividends when I was eventually able to make connections in my head.


for me to hire someone like you the main question is that you have a good idea of what you are getting into. without any relevant work experience i'd worry that you might find that this new field is not for you, and you'd rather do something else. (i know i can expect you to try your best to keep the job, but i'd like to know before hiring if you'll enjoy it)

you won't need a bootcamp, but you should at least be familiar with the territory.

aside from that, try some thinking outside of the box. what other experience do you have besides programming? what industry knowledge have you gained from working at a medical device company?

are there any startups where you can use that industry knowledge?

or try freelancing? what are the pain points in the medical device industry? can you solve them and sell those solutions?

as mentioned, for regular employment 150k is kind of a ceiling. to go beyond that you need to do something to stand out.

https://jonathanstark.com/ has some good arguments about that pay ceiling. it applies to freelancers billing hourly just as much as it applies to employees because in both cases you are paid for time. to earn more, you need to break out of that.


Are you sure you need a bootcamp? It sounds like you are selling yourself short and/or not getting job prospects in the right fields. As someone who recently was reviewing resumes bootcamps are so variable in quality that they are in the same boat to me as no-name certifications. A bootcamp is just making the time to spend dedicated effort for you to learn something and it's only going to give you as much as you put in. If you've spoken to people and heard success stories it's likely not because they went to the bootcamp but they used that time effectively- this is the common advice for any of these short-term career shift sort of programs for any industry.

Are you sure that AI or large scale systems actually exists in the markets you are looking for? Not all markets support the same industries and as you would probably know the number of times it's just lip service and held together in the back with cellotape is still amazingly high. To really get into this sorts of things you would probably be having to pursue a role labeled as architect if it wasn't a market where these things were relevant. The kind of job you are looking for probably isn't being posted in a place you can find it, and I have found that recruiters are the gatekeepers not any public posting. I haven't tried cold messaging recruiters of companies I am interested in on LinkedIn but I think that's probably what I would do, you could also cold message engineers working in something you find exceptionally interesting.

Try some of the alternative sites like hired.com where it just isn't blindly submitting resumes.

Are you just interviewing poorly? Is your resume even relevant? I remember reviewing someone's resume last year that still had Windows 98 as a skill. As just a general resume trend listing every version of a thing you know is less popular than listing the types of skills you have and if they want further details be ready to provide it.

From the salary side are you just capped out for the market? There are definitely some places where 150k is the ceiling that's very hard to break without some sort of exceptional relationship with you as an individual and the employer, or an industry that just happens to command higher salaries. If you want to get into say 250k town in a 150k market you've got to be doing something differently than just being a tech lead and trying to climb the ladder.

A couple weekends to get up to speed so you can talk to the interviewer at the same level will always do better than 'I can catch up' but in the conversation it is clear you are missing the big picture. Someone who is living and breathing the problem but just needs to switch gears to actually apply themselves to it will go to the top of the stack versus someone who is like 'teach me.' So many people show up to interviews and show only passing interest in the work to be done and the conversation. Don't be that person.




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