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Ask HN: If you worked with a grad from a code bootcamp, how effective were they?
91 points by glaugh on Apr 16, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments
A close friend of mine is deciding which code bootcamp to attend. Talking to graduates has been useful. But if the goal is to be a good developer that people want to work with, the most objective source of information for applicants (and hirers) is probably previous graduates' coworkers.

If you've worked with a bootcamp grad, please take this < 1 minute survey. Results will hopefully be really helpful for a lot of people, and they'll be available for download in their entirety.

http://fluidsurveys.com/s/coding-bootcamp-grad-peer-assessment/

Disclosure: I have a secondary motive in that I'm a cofounder of Statwing, and I think the results of this will be a really interesting dataset to let people play around with (like the Stack Overflow survey: https://www.statwing.com/demos/dev-survey). I do in fact have a close friend making this decision right now, though.




I worked with a Dev Bootcamp grad who had worked at a consultancy of some sort for 8 or 9 months before joining our company.

It was definitely an interesting experience. I've worked with a number of fresh college grads, and I more or less know where they tend to be weak/strong. The dev bootcamp grad was pretty much the opposite of a college grad. He was strong with our specific tools (rails), good development practices (scms, tdd, agilish development), and solid communication skills. However, he was weak with a lot of the stuff you get taught or pick up in college, like programming paradigms, basic algorithms, unix tools, and any domain besides web development.

For example, since he knew only ruby, he struggled a lot with js. I can understand why- when I first learned my second language, I struggled a bit too. Every language after that becomes a lot easier, of course, because you've learnt how to learn a language. Since he hadn't done that yet, it took longer than expected to ramp up.

On the other hand, he was pretty well versed in the rails way to do anything. He was adamant about our test suite, and would argue for good separation of concerns.

If I had to sum it up, I'd say that college gives you intermediate skills in computer science, and basic skills in the practice of software development. You're expected to develop the latter at your first job.

Dev bootcamp, on the other hand, gives you basic skills in computer science, and intermediate skills in the practice of software development. Presumably you're expected to develop the former on your own if you want to succeed as a developer.


This is spot on in my experience. I'm a recent grad with a BS in Computer Science and know several people who have graduated from different bootcamps. In comparing the kids I graduated college with to the ones who just did a bootcamp I see exactly what you described.


i'm a dev bootcamp grad and I feel like you just described me well, but i'm very crafty with products and am very business leaning (mba as well), though I haven't had too much trouble doing things in js, my data structure/algo stuff is weak and I care about improving it.


check out the Algorithm Design Manual by Steven Skiena. It's fun, accessible and very practical.


One thing that I've noticed in interviewing people is that those with a previous STEM background seem to get a lot more out of the programs. I assume it's because they already have an understanding of problem solving & analytical thinking (whether it comes naturally or they were taught it) and so coding bootcamp is just learning a new syntax for their problem solving. One of our best engineers is a Carnegie Mellon EE grad who did a coding bootcamp, he's an awesome coder.

On the flip side those who come to me with a liberal arts degree + bootcamp just don't seem to have the same problem solving skills.

This is all a generalization of course but it's what I've seen doing lots of interviews.


One of our best engineers is a Carnegie Mellon EE grad who did a coding bootcamp, he's an awesome coder.

Is that really surprising? I'd definitely expect an EE grad from CMU to have taken some previous coding course work and to have learned at least a language or two during the course of his undergraduate degree.


I did not have positive experiences working with the Dev Bootcamp and grads from other camps at my company, which hired a number of them, 4 or so of which I got to know. My two cents is that, like the bootcamps, they are very good at selling themselves, and they are rather charismatic and friendly people at that. But I did not find they were good problem solvers, they are very junior post bootcamp. My team stopped considering resumes from any boot camp participants, unless they had an engineering background.

What I think's going on is that many of them want to found startups, so they want to be technical enough to launch prototypes, give investor confidence, etc. but they don't want to invest much further than that. And I think that's ultimately a problematic approach, as it's not going to be good for the people that hire you, and not good for the startup you found either, thinking of the recent poster who, as a 'technical cofounder', is being squeezed out of his company by the CTO because he's just not good enough.

I read in another comment this survey did not prevent multiple voting, so I'm sharing my opinion here as it's unclear if the survey will be skewed.


I'm a CS major, and have worked a few years as a programmer in embedded systems. For a number of reasons I'm making the switch to Ruby, and am attending Dev Bootcamp to accelerate that process. I find the practical-centered bootcamp makes a nice compliment to the theory-heavy computer science taught in college. I haven't attended the camp yet, but I've worked with a few students on projects so far (there's a lot of pre-work involved). I have to say, I've been impressed. My group has a Stanford grad or two, plus a decent number of Ivy Leaguers. Of course, my sample size is very small, I can't speak for everyone.

The good thing about DBC is its intensity. We're asked to work upwards of 100 hours a week.* I'm dubious as to exactly where that number comes from and how accurate it is, however it is clear that students work long hours and almost always stay late. I'm told at least a few drop out each term. At least to me, this indicates that the students who complete the program are motivated.

I think the problem is when applicants rely entirely on a three month program to get work. I'm attending DBC not so I can put it on my CV and hop straight into a startup job, but because I genuinely want to add Ruby to my toolbox.

IMO bootcamps shouldn't be taken just to have another line on a resume. They should be a stepping stone, giving the student the tools to contribute to real projects that will give them real experience. I think these contributions that the bootcamp experience allows are where the real value comes from. I apologize if I've been rambling, my point is that bootcamps work best as a part of a bigger and longer story that shows a dedication to the craft of programming.

*Someone mentioned this isn't the case. I'll see if I can dig up where I read this.


"We're asked to work upwards of 100 hours a week."

It doesn't seem like one could learn effectively while fighting physical and mental exhaustion.

Asking people to work 100 hours a week sounds more like an indoctrination program to make them believe that the long work hours they're likely to find in startups are "normal". Or maybe a way for the bootcamp to market their grads to startups: "Our graduates survived 100-hour weeks, so if you're looking for people who are willing to put up with abuse, we have lots of those right here."


That's an interesting way to look at it. I see it more as a placeholder for "we expect a lot from you, and expect you to work hard." I think any CS major can attest that there are periods in college that call for similarly excessive time investment. Perhaps it's less insidious, a way to give themselves some validity and show that students are covering a lot in those three months. Again, I am biased, so who knows.


It's driven by the amount of material that students need to ingest over a 3 month period. As sciguy noted, this is totally normal in academic settings as well. For instance, OS (15-410) at CMU requires 70+ hours a week. That's a single class.

These are of course completely different animals, but the scale of learning is similar. Getting a solid intuition for not only web applications but programming fundamentals when starting with neither requires serious effort and is a challenge of breadth. 3 months worth of 40 hour weeks will probably not cut it.


Just because CMU does it too doesn't mean that it's reasonable. Students who are stressed out and sleep-deprived aren't going to be learning effectively - there's lots of research that indicates that sleep is necessary for forming long-term memories.[1] Better to split the course into two semesters.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_and_Memory


You've touched on an important point. Namely, that bootcamps actually can't very feasibly split or extend their curriculum. It's not a coincidence that most of these schools offer 10-12 week sessions. Moving past that and the logistics of relocation, tuition, expenses & health care become much more difficult to manage.


"We're asked to work upwards of 100 hours a week."

No you're not. I went to Dev Bootcamp. You're required to be present 40 hours a week, any additional hours are because you choose to do so.


Hmm. Let me try and figure out where I heard this.


Here you go:

http://devbootcamp.com/faq/

"So I'm going to be sitting in class for 40 hours a week?"

"No. That would be terribly boring and ineffective. You will spend a little time every day learning through curated tutorials and books, and a lot of the time practicing what you learn. You'll work in pairs and small groups on an exciting integrated curriculum. Your brain will be buzzing as you solve problems, tackle challenges, and build applications until you're confident in your mastery of the skills. If you have an idea for a web app you want to build, then definitely bring it. Also it's important to note that even though class is 40 hours per week, you'll be working more like 70-100 hours per week!"

P.S.- I also attended Dev Bootcamp (with feministy, as it happens). I'd say 70-100 hours per week was accurate for my cohort, although this varies significantly depending on a student's programming background.


Perhaps it's just what you heard people tend to do. I also attended DBC and the "general" hours were very cohort specific; even within each cohort there's a huge variation. However, everyone I met during the bootcamp really enjoyed what we were learning, so naturally that led to long hours if there weren't outside responsibilities.


Just curious here..If you are already a programmer, why do you need a bootcamp to learn ruby? It seems to me you should be able to spend $40 on a book, and be up and running within a few weeks. Then try to implement some of the stuff you have done in other languages in ruby.


I can't speak for the parent, but most programmers and CS grads that attend bootcamps aren't so much interested in learning Ruby as developing a better intuition for web application architecture.

This, I'm sure you'll agree, makes much more sense than simply learning another Algol-based language. To turn this on its head, I can write C & C++ passably but that doesn't mean I'd feel qualified applying for a job as an embedded systems or game developer.


I don't think a survey can quite capture the amount of detail necessary for providing an evaluation for something like this.

In my experience of interviewing, working with and mentoring code bootcamp students, the #1 deficiency I found in every single one of them (a sample size between 10-15), is that for the first year to year and a half after graduation they all lack the ability for trivial problem solving (why am I getting this error?) and finding an answer on their own (read: using Google). It's as if the code in these bootcamps is completely error free and debugging never happens, or my other hypotheses is having mentors/teachers around to hold your hand at any moment doesn't help build the "Just Google It" muscles.


We interviewed a few and will probably never consider resumes from bootcamp grads again. Calling them Jr. isn't even fair towards CS grads that are actual Jr. level


What grinds my gears is recently coming across some bootcamp grad's profiles that call themselves Software Engineers and have yet to get a job as an engineer. This is like saying you are a racecar driver and only took a class at the karting track.


I can appreciate the concern for eroding your title. I question the line where you decide who is an SE and who isn't.

I'm a recent cs grad who's dabbled in lots of c, java and python as my main languages. I'm getting into node and mongoDB. I drank the linux koolaid early so it pains me that I'm day jobbing as a jr dev building institutional investment tools, and I've got a fledging startup (Loodo.co).

Am I an SE yet?


I guess my "line" would have to be where you've built a software product professionally. Whether it be your company or an outside company. My argument is coming from the bootcamp grads that don't call themselves JR or Entry level.


Can you elaborate on why you would never consider resumes from bootcamp grads?


I will say that where I work we appear to have managed to get on a list of "startups to send your resume to" by one or two of these bootcamp shops, and the resumes tend to be severely underwhelming. Here are some of the things that have been negatively affecting my reaction to them (I share in hopes this is useful, not to bash bootcamps or folks that attend them!):

ONLY A GITHUB PROFILE

It seems pretty clear that the bootcamps told you we really care about your github profile, and that sometimes gets interpreted as "to the exclusion of everything else".

APPARENTLY BORN SIX MONTHS AGO

Related to the over-emphasis on github profiles is the exclusion of anything not-code related. I get that code bootcamps attract lots of folks who maybe got a political science degree or spent the last three years in real estate. Tell me that. I'd love to see what you've been up to, we're looking to hire you, not your ability to code. I hope these institutions aren't making folks feel like their past isn't valuable because it didn't involve Rails.

ALSO THE GITHUB PROFILE IS BORING

The profiles tend to have some code camp rails homework in them. It's hard to go from learning to code to having a github profile that's impressive in a short period of time (Hell, I've been working for well over a decade and my github profile isn't impressive!).. That said, if you do want me to care about your github profile I'd rather see signs of enthusiasm in the form of personal gists or projects or thoughtful bug reports or feature tickets on other projects.

DISGUISES THE CODE BOOTCAMP AFFILIATION

Seems like the elephant in the room on these things is where you've been learning to code and how you found us. Many of the resumes seem to avoid being transparent about this. I wanna know which bootcamp you did, what got you interested, and how it went.

THEY TOLD YOU TO EMAIL US

It's clear that we're on a list and plenty of candidates email us without knowing (or maybe caring) about what we do. That's a non-starter. Frankly, I doubt that the people who even put us on the list of shops to mail looked any closer than a crunch-base profile or Who's Hiring post on HN.

RAILS

The resumes I'm seeing clearly come from a bootcamp that emphasizes Rails and JS/HTML. That's great, but we're not a rails shop and the candidate is brand spanking new to this. It's probably better that you continue your investment in Rails before doing a wholesale dive into another platform.

At any rate, I love that camps like this exist. I've long thought our industry needs really good trade education to supplement CS programs which are focused and affordable ways to launch folks who are interested into software development. I just think the packaging and presentation of folks coming out of these things could use some work.


This is similar to what I've seen. It is challenging enough being a startup, its even more challenging to try to be a remedial computer science program and get stuff done.

What is strange is the exact same thing happened in the late 90's during the first bubble. In that case it was "webmaster" was the new thing and there were these sorts of boot camps that would turn you into a webmaster in just a few short weeks so you could take your place in the .com revolution. Massive numbers of those folks were doing that because they wanted more money per month and were trying any way they could to get it. They made for really bad web designers because they really didn't care about things and at the end of the day, coding is about caring and interest.


To be fair, learning to code well is HARD and takes a lot of time, and more importantly, practice. Stayin inside coding as a kid was the best decision of my life, career-wise.


I agree with you and parent. I think the real value of programs like this probably ought to be to help identify people who do have an aptitude and interest for this but for whatever reason haven't learned already and want an alternative to a college degree program to get in the workforce. I suspect the net that's cast is often quite wider than that though :)


Totally agree with this. The key is that if you're hiring someone from a bootcamp program you need to carefully build an on-boarding process for them that can effectively spoon feed the critical bits of your infrastructure/platform to them so that they don't waste any time in becoming productive.


At Code Fellows we have quite a few students who use boot camps to switch stacks or they have legacy CS experience that they are getting back into. We also have a lot of newer folks. One of the things that we've seen at Code Fellows is that incoming students need to have a Foundational understanding of data structures, algorithms, and data types—and also a experience in the stack they are going to take a boot camp in. If they have these ingredients and relevant experience then they can take off in those 8 weeks and be prepared and inspired to keep learning, growing, and get a job. We are super clear that this is a HARD life long process—and that's part of the fun/agony of it all :)


I've noticed the same need, which is why I started a series of articles trying to cover that stuff.

http://daemon.co.za/2014/04/introduction-fullstack-fundament...


>its even more challenging to try to be a remedial computer science program and get stuff done.

I have even felt this pain at a former employer who hired IS majors as devs. The only IS majors that tended hold there own was the ones with CS minors.


"Related to the over-emphasis on github profiles is the exclusion of anything not-code related."

Most people hiring wouldn't and it's pretty common to remove things from one's resume that are unrelated to the position applied for. It's expected, actually, as most people who are hiring don't want to waste time trying to sort qualifications from chuff.


Well I'd kindly submit that those people are completely fucking it up. I also doubt you're correct about "most".

Again, I'm hiring you holistically.. not your ability to program. I think especially if your ability to program is a new facet to your otherwise rich and interesting existence then you're hurting yourself not sharing more.


Unfortunately, what you want goes against every single source of resume advice I've ever read. In fact, I'd like to see a source that doesn't advise against it. It's likely that the candidates are reading the same material and thinking that this is what employers want. IMO, the advice is spot on. The only things under consideration in a hiring decision should be things that directly reflect one's skills as pertaining to the job. If you're evaluating based on other criteria, it may go as far as being illegal (discrimination). Perhaps you find ten years worth of trucking experience relevant for a coding job. Most employers don't and won't waste the time reading a long resume, especially if it's irrelevant. It's likely it won't even get past the initial screening phase.


> In fact, I'd like to see a source that doesn't advise against it.

I just gave you one :) As far as legality, there's an enormous difference between wanting to know how someone approached and what they learned from a previous career (or school, or serious hobby, etc.) and crossing the line into discrimination. It's not that difficult.


Great advice! I am on the non-technical side of our team but I work closely with the devs and have recently attended a career fair at a university and was faced with the same problem. Grads came to us wanting to work with us but with little to no research on the company and the biggest thing to me was no reason as to why they wanted to work with us. Something I find for new grads, from any type of program, are lacking a foundation in how to find the right job for them. They panic and apply to every single job opening without stopping to think what is important to them in a job and what it is they actually want to do. All be it we all have to start somewhere, but starting somewhere you're passionate about from the start is going to have a huge impact on how you begin your career!


That's a good point, I've seen that with new grads. I do think if you're actively seeking out junior folks via career fairs etc then you've kind of reversed the funnel and it makes sense that people might scatter-shot apply without knowing lots about you and are hoping to get interviews and find out who they're interested in at that point. That's probably totally reasonable, I guess it makes sense to adjust your process and expectations to accommodate if new-grad hiring is a big focus.


I would think just starting out is the perfect time to switch over to Python / Node / whatever... you've got your head around the concepts of MVC, object-oriented programming, etc, but haven't settled into a routine about how to use your particular language and framework. Once you're specialized, switching costs only grow.

Plus, if you hire a bootcamp grad, you're probably going to have to do lots of on-the-job training anyway. Good time to indoctrinate the candidate with the "right" way to do things in your particular codebase.


Maybe.. I only have the "Worked with one language for a couple years before switching" experience, and not the other. I feel like when I learn other languages having had a strong fundamental in other ones is what makes it possible for me to know what I'm looking for and get up to speed. I worry that switching super early in your learning process would make learning the fundamentals slower, but I'm probably not qualified to say.

All of that said, I think there are plenty of rails shops and if you're from one of these camps you'll likely feel more confident & productive right away and your confidence and ability to ask the right questions will be paramount in your success in a first-coding position I think... so my advice would likely be to still maximize for your current strengths and try to stay in your burgeoning wheelhouse.


I'd prefer to hire dev bootcamp grads over fresh CS grads. We've interviewed a ton of the latter, but hired 2 of the former.

Why? A lot (not all) of CS programs are out of date when it comes to the ever-changing state-of-the-art. Unless they are exceptional, these students won't know much about applying modern open-source technologies, and still think of building webapps in Java.

Also, those who go through a bootcamp show an intrinsic motivation and passion for the work. They put themselves through an intense program, because they want to. And pay money for it.

In the end, the best devs are continuously self-taught. A bootcamp jumpstarts that process better than a degree.


Is it intentional that Hacker School in NYC isn't on this list? It's structured very differently from many of the other code bootcamps, and I'd be curious how its differences shake out in terms of effectiveness of graduates.

I know intermediate and advanced level coders can do Hacker School as well, but I ask because I worked with a Hacker School graduate who fits your definition (never coded before, only spent 2+ months ramping up at Hacker School before landing his first coding job with us.)


I don't think of Hacker School as a bootcamp. The emphasis is very different than my understanding of what a bootcamp provides.

The way I think of HS is as a place where you can focus and learn with like minded people in a conducive environment. It isn't designed to churn out app/web developers (not that that is a bad thing). It's as they say, "like a writing retreat".


It was an intentional choice, based on my (incorrect) impression that it was exclusively more advanced folks. Though now I'll act like vitno's logic was mine, too :)

I think if I were to do it over I might include it, but at this point I'd rather not change anything and risk messing something up in the survey data. Thanks for bringing it up.


Oops - apparently Hacker School no longer really encourages that sort of person. I can't edit my post to say that, unfortunately. That's a shame; they trained our guy far better than most of the candidates I see coming out of "bootcamps"....

From their FAQ:

>>I don't know how to program. Can I do Hacker School? No, sorry. Hacker School is currently only for people who already know how to code. Think of it like a writers workshop. We're here to help people become great novelists, but you have to already know English and be comfortable writing essays.


They don't accept people who's never coded before, but you don't need to have coded a lot. (I was surprised at this news of someone who'd never coded at all -- I'd still guess it's just a slight exaggeration.)


I just asked the guy. He had self-taught himself programming on his own for a few months prior to attending the program, but attended in part to make a career change (had done startup biz dev / operations / whatnot prior.) Maybe that counted, or maybe they just tightened the restriction since then.

That said, this was spring of 2012. I'm sure Hacker School has changed a lot since then! Suffice it to say he's a fabulous programmer now. :)


That's in line with my experience (fall '12). I just don't want anyone reading this to be discouraged from applying because they're not 'advanced' -- there was a Hacker School blog post on that pretty recently.


I'm a cofounder at http://www.hackreactor.com -- AMA

Here's a note from a DBC employee that is dead for some reason:

-----

Full disclosure: I am a former Wealthfront employee, and am now an instructor at Dev Bootcamp. We hired two DBC grads onto my team while I was at WF, and a third after I left. We also interviewed DBC grads who didn't make the cut. Obviously I came to DBC because I believe in what they do. My experience as an engineer on the Wealthfront team was that: 1. DBC Grads were incredibly driven, hard workers, who had an exceptional ability to "drink from the firehose" and learn what we needed them to learn rapidly. After seeing my first 9 weeks here, it's clear that _no other kind of person_ can make it through DBC. 2. DBC Grads were very effective communicators. I think there's a lot of value in DBC's "engineering empathy" curriculum. 3. DBC Grads had a solid enough basis in CS fundamentals and web development to be effective immediately as new hires. Both our DBC hires were adding value right off the bat, and rapidly grew into their role. Wealthfront has a strong mentoring culture, and mentoring had an outsized impact on their ability to grow, because they had already "learned how to learn." To be honest, they were more independent than some fresh CS grads I know. There's no textbook once you're in industry. We rejected some DBC grads too. Like in all things, there is a spectrum of talent and ability across DBC graduates. In the end I was impressed enough to leave an incredible team to become an instructor here. Like any junior engineer, graduates of these hacker schools are investments. I happen to think the graduates we produce are particularly good ones. If you're curious, here's an interview my students did with me about DBC. We talk a fair amount about my experience with our two DBC grads at Wealthfront: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viLYR0kAqAc


How did the employee die?


They just mean the note itself is "dead" (voted down into oblivion or from a person who is hellbanned) - you have to view HN with "showdead" turned on to see dead comments.


I hired one. She got rejected from my company for a developer position, but I hired her for my team anyways for a hybrid business development/programming role.

This was ~2 months ago; she's learned enough in two months that we're going to hire her at the end of her contract as a full-time Rails developer. I'm not sure that the 10 week bootcamp was enough for her to pass our screening, but in the two months she's been here she's more than proved herself as capable.

As a business guy, I can't comment much on why she was denied originally, but so far it's worked out.


I'm the grad, rather than a guy working with a grad. But, just a bit of my experience:

When I first came out of Epicodus into working at my current firm Ahalogy, I obviously knew I had a lot to learn. However, the way I've hit the grindstone and just continued to expand my skillset and learn (which is a skill that Epicodus helped me develop) the developers I work with notice constant improvement and I've gone from 'definitely a junior dev' to having projects that I own and work on exclusively as well as other large ones. We also hired another bootcamp grad who is in about the same boat (he came from Dev Bootcamp). Hopefully you get some encouraging results :) I love my job and where I work more than words can describe and Epicodus opened these doors for me after I grew sick of my Physics curriculum in college.

edit for context: I was in Epicodus's last fall class. So, 6ish months of time since I finished up and began working a bit later. Took some time off to find the perfect fit for my first real programming job that wasn't freelance.


I hired a Dev Bootcamp grad back in 2012. We hired him into our apprenticeship program, which leveled him up to our junior developer standards within 6 months. I was really impressed with the combination of soft skills and software skills he came with.

I was so impressed from this experience with Dev Bootcamp that I quit my job, joined Dev Bootcamp, and launched Dev Bootcamp in Chicago.


What's up Dave!


There seems to be nothing to prevent multiple submission. I would expect meaningless data as bootcamp founders + staff hang out on HN.


Thank you. Fixed that issue.


I'm still able to submit more than once. I find that polleverywhere's sms based voting is a good way to get around this (but kind of annoying for voters).


Pretty sure that's because I didn't have that setting on before your first submission, as I'm not able to do multiple submissions.

Either way, we'll watch out in the results for suspicious behavior. Thanks for bringing this up.


Still seems to be a problem?


Weird. Not sure why that would be the case for you but not me. Well, in any case, we're planning on doing a lot of checks on the back end around this (b/c after all, anyone can submit a survey multiple times from multiple devices, etc., anyway).

Thanks again


So I took a quick search and find a list of 50 code bootcamps, and many are duplicate bootcamps on different locations:

http://www.programmingisnothard.com/bootcamps

A few things I noticed (through just a quick inspection):

  1) Average training time is about 10 weeks;
  2) 28 out of 50 teaches Ruby/Rails, 15 out of 50 teaches JavaScript, 5 teaches Python, 3 teaches iOS, and 3 teaches Android.
---

So, yeah, the curriculum is pretty practical. I doubt many of the curriculums cares about C.S. basics as long as it is enough to let them write Rails code.

I think one way to filter out the inept students is may be let them do some algorithm problems during interview? Also if your company does Ruby, then let a part of interview process be solving the bugs or issues on company's current project, and try to see how to approach the problem and whether can get it done. Understanding other people's code and reproducing/tracing/fixing bug is something very important. Also a big thing is when a bootcamp grad candidate say "you should do X in Rails", probably ask them why is a good idea. Do they do X just because their teachers say so, or there is a good reason for really doing so.

Disclaimer: don't have any experience with any bootcamp grad, but with experience working with X (place Rails, Django, etc. here) only guys.


> I think one way to filter out the inept students is may be let them do some algorithm problems during interview?

Depending on the goals of the interview, that can either be useful or a waste of time.

Bootcamp students may have never had a formal introduction to algorithms. Therefore, phrasing a question in terms of space / time Big O complexity is pointless.

However, if the interviewer is capable of posing an algorithm question in more generic terms it can certainly tease out an interviewee's approach to logic and problem solving.


I have come across a few that do teach algorithms, although I've never been. How deep can you get on algorithms when you only learn it for a week?

With that said, I'm not a CS grad and I've learnt time complexity through self learning.

Personally I don't think algorithms are really necessary for people working to be front end web developers. The bottleneck on speed is in the back end.


I've only worked with one bootcamp grad, but I've done a fair bit of hiring over the past 15 years, including a number of junior folks.

My main concern with bootcamp grads is that it is not much of a positive signal. My (admittedly biased and unscientific) sense is that you really have to be hopeless to flunk out. The training period is so short that the assignments are necessarily small and limited in scope, so they don't test any kind of tenacity or the problem solving and lateral thinking required as a professional. Granted, University degrees have this same problem, but there at least for a proper CS degree there is some heavy math and theory and exams which over a period of four years will tend to winnow the field a bit more. Plus, if someone has gone through four years of CS assignments, they should be able to show some kind of programmerly reasoning ability and debugging techniques—if they don't at all I think they are pretty easy to write off, whereas someone who has only been coding for 3 months should not necessarily be written off so quickly because they still may need to pass a few eureka moments.

I remember my first year of CS after having been generally obsessed with computers and fooling around with programming for over a decade in HyperTalk, AppleSoft BASIC, Pascal and even C. There was this moment when it just clicked in my head how code was logic manifest. I know it sounds trite, but there really was this moment where I went from thinking of code as a magic incantation to achieve some result to understanding that code can be anything you imagine, and that you can map your very thoughts to code. There was some transformation that happened from years of curiosity and obsession, and from what I can tell a lot of people never pass that phase of thinking of code as magic incantations. I'm not sure what's necessary to make that leap, but I'm fairly certain a 3-month bootcamp will not be sufficient to draw it out for most people.

The other problem with bootcamps is that they are just too visible and attractive to people looking for a good career. I see parallels to Indian outsourcing attempts I was involved in 10-15 years ago. It was apparent there were a huge number of programmers who had no interest in the craft, but went into the field simply because their parents thought it was a good job. 20 years ago I don't think anybody in the US wanted their kids to be programmers, so if someone showed up looking for a programming job they were already most likely brimming with the requisite curiosity to become a passable programmer (even if they weren't a genius!). With the US economy tanking and startup culture being glorified and mainstreamed I feel like bootcamps are the obvious outlet for people seeking the media-fueled romance of being a bonafide Silicon Valley engineer.

All of this is a bit unfair to bootcamps. They may well be the fastest way to learn, and the curriculum may be top notch, but for me personally it's a negative signal. I would be more impressed with a candidate who saved their money and spent 3 months teaching themselves to code using on-line resources. Perhaps that's unfair, but that's my bias. God I would have killed for the web in 1987. Do you have any idea how much Inside Macintosh (the Mac OS API reference) cost? Or a C compiler for that matter?


One thing I'd like to add to your comment is that I think quite a few people that enter these boot camps are self taught and just need some molding for entry into the professional world. I did exactly what you mentioned and taught myself ( and continue to), but I also did a small three month for-profit online program that pairs you with a mentor. I did this to tuck in any loose ends in my understanding as well as imbue myself in any cultural assumptions that I was blind to.


I have encountered a number of people who share your sentiment, that attending a bootcamp is a negative signal. I went through one of these bootcamps after a few years of learning on my own. While it was an awesome experience and I learned a lot, I find it necessary to pretend it never happened - it's as if the years I spent teaching myself and my passion for the subject are undone by association with a bootcamp.


Have you not encountered people with the opposite sentiment? I'm in your same situation (but I haven't gone to a bootcamp yet) so I'm wondering what I should do.


I suggest not going, but at least be careful which one you pick. We've interviewed a bunch of people from General Assembly LA and none of them have the right kind of experience for us to hire, so now we don't really consider anyone whose only experience is GA.

Have you tried applying for jobs? Working anywhere >> going to a dev bootcamp (with the possible exception of NYC Hacker School, which seems incredibly impressive and self-motivated)


> you really have to be hopeless to flunk out.

Are you assuming that you can get into the camp as a hopeless flunky? That may be true for some bootcamp environments but is certainly not the case for all of them.


they are still a tiny bit too exclusive to become this generation's MCSE, but they are getting there.


On a related note, if you're interested in joining a bootcamp (or know somebody that might be interested) I helped create this Bootcamp portal at Thinkful: http://www.thinkful.com/bootcamps/all

@glaugh, maybe your friend will find this tool useful (in addition to all the great feedback we've already seen in the thread).

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback!


Will you post the results?


Yup, they'll be posted for download by anyone.


Hey, your site seems to have trouble rendering graphs on smaller screensizes.

http://screencast.com/t/jMZuQTz6xto http://screencast.com/t/qSkFeFpM

I'd much prefer a fixed size table that I can pan vs an autosizing one.


Appreciate that feedback. Actually working on improving that output view shortly.


What is your expected time for posting the results?


Middle of next week. (I'm leaving town for a wedding tomorrow morning, sorry).


Any update on posting the results? I'm currently enrolled in a bootcamp type program and really curious to hear about the perceptions of people in the workforce.


It depends on the school. Some schools are much more well known and can be much more selective in who they accept. Other schools are just starting out and are trying to find their footing. In general though, I find that the people from these bootcamps follow a pretty standard bell-shaped distribution curve with a few people really standing out, most people being average, and a few people being really underwhelming (relative to other grads mind you). My goal in working with these bootcamps is to find the the people on the far right of these curves.

To that end, I've found that the people I've worked with from these schools are just as capable and talented as anyone from anywhere else. It's just that the company I work for is as selective with them as we are with someone from any other background.

Building a good relationship with the people in charge of the school is key, I think. They want to help their students get good jobs and they also want to build the prestige of their institution. I want to find the brightest students to help solve my engineering goals. Working with the leaders helps us both accomplish our goals at the same time.


At Code Fellows we're pretty intense about prep and interviewing. We want to make people have a solid foundation to get the most out of bootcamp. You can see some of those thoughts here: http://www.codefellows.org/learn-to-code




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