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Ask HN: Those who hired bootcamp graduates, would you hire them again?
93 points by burritofanatic 847 days ago | hide | past | web | 74 comments | favorite
Would you? Have we reached a saturation point for bootcamp graduates? Has the bootcamp experiment failed, or succeeded?

About two years ago, the concept of a dev bootcamp was still relatively uncommon, with a competitive admissions process and a good reputation. Now, it seems like there's more than I can keep track of. I also want to know if graduates who don't have much luck finding work after their program just decide to do something else?




At MaxwellHealth we've hired 5 graduates from the general assembly intensive program, 2 for QA and 3 for Dev. The one take away I've had is that they all are coming with a baseline of knowledge that could let them contribute on day one.

For these 5 women, that was in addition to the soft skills necessary to succeed which I assume they all had before going into the program. I absolutely would hire them all again. We have interviewed several more from that program as well as other bootcamps who didn't exhibit those soft skills (bad attitudes, unable to communicate clearly what they worked on).

Most bootcamps have a group project, this for me is the key to whether they will be successful on your team. The group project shows from experience some of the challenges on working on a team - merge conflicts,how they manage time and how they work with others (who might not be on the same level or who have a bad attitude). One of our developers had worked on a team that had a team member drop out of the program mid way through their project. We happened to meet her teammate who told us that not only did they get it out on time but she had stepped up big time and made sure that all the features got out the door.

TL/DR : Hired 5 awesome women through General Assembly and would hire them all again.


Given the gender ratio of students at General Assembly it would be improbable in the extreme that all five candidates you hired from them were women.

Do you have some sort of explicit gender-based filtering in your hiring or recruiting process?


Certainly not, more just coincidence. I believe we made offers to men through GA but they had already lined up positions.

However, depending on the class they can be pretty close to even on women to men. 2 of 3 hiring events i've been to in the last year were half men/women, one i'm pretty sure was more women then men (7/4? something like that) but that was in Boston at specific time so YMMV.


Isn't that illegal?


It certainly would be.


>to the soft skills necessary to succeed

That's really interesting to hear, and something I haven't run into. Thus far my experience with developers from bootcamps has been underwhelming and over-hyped. ("We made our own Facebook in the program" is really "You made a guestbook-wall-web-app that saves data to a database using RoR")

I could see how those soft skills could be extremely useful, and it is honestly something on a daily basis I have the most problems with in other developers.


I interviewed a bootcamp graduate recently that had similar claims but couldn't answer basic algorithm and design questions that high school students are being taught.


Would you mind leaving your contact info in your profile? I'd like to get in touch.


I've come across many developers who have been through the bootcamp process. Some were great, some less so.

The worst thing that bootcamps can do is to encourage developers to simply "pad" their GitHub accounts with exercises in order to have used as many technologies as possible. I've seen developers bragging solely about the number of repos and commits they have in GitHub.

Generally speaking though, some people come through the programs having gained an incredible amount of skill, some people were already very good and simply looked to extend their skills, and some came through without gaining much at all. Much like any education program.


My brother took one of the bootcamps. One of his classmates had been a CS major. He took it to bridge the gap between CS and real world application as well as make use of the networking aspects of the program.

When I took the course, 4 of my classmates ran their own companies, 2 others were project managers. None of them were looking to become developers. They were trying to gain some knowledge to better communicate with half their company. We had UI/UX designers trying to extend their reach. The vast majority were artsy people looking to apply their design skills to front end web development, while still making sure they knew where the data was coming from (or be able to fall into a full stack role). Out of a class of 25, I think only 5 of us ended up doing any back-end related programming, and I'm the only one that ended up as purely back end(Math/Stats major in college).


> The worst thing that bootcamps can do is to encourage developers to simply "pad" their GitHub accounts with exercises in order to have used as many technologies as possible. I've seen developers bragging solely about the number of repos and commits they have in GitHub.

Industry hiring practices are encouraging this; bootcamps are simply keying their students into it.


Tell me about it. I'm an Electrical Engineering with a Computer Science and Mathematics background. It's been tough!


My company hired two bootcamp developers.

One stepped up, and the other was fired. They were great for basic web development, but really crashed and burned for anything more than that. They had some issues understanding basic system administration, data modeling, basic algorithms, web architecture, and systems modeling. Our lead developers didn't have time to give them a two year education on these issues. We were all busy building stuff. The one bootcamp developer who survived, from what I found out was basically eat sleep breathing itunes computer science courses. But she eventually resigned from massive burnout.

I personally think there should be a better median between a 10-20wks bootcamp and four year degree.

I think the first 2 1/2 years of my computer science b.s. really really helped me learn the basic mental model for computers, and how to learn new concepts from that model.


"The one bootcamp developer who survived, from what I found out was basically eat sleep breathing itunes computer science courses. But she eventually resigned from massive burnout."

As a self taught developer myself, this pretty much describes how I managed to keep my first job. I'd be working 16 hour days.... itunes U didn't exist at the time, but I made enough to buy as many books as I needed. I'd spend all night learning what I didn't know.

I started programming at 12 (my first dev job was at 18), so going in I had a good idea of how to program, but going from side projects to full time work required that extra effort.


"They had some issues understanding basic system administration, data modeling, basic algorithms, web architecture, and systems modeling."

Can you expand on this a bit? As in, what kinds of things within those areas were they not getting or completely ignorant of?


We have good experiences hiring from dev bootcamps in europe but we take care to hire for attitude rather than technical skills.

Junior developers have a lot to learn and showing commitment and openness to be taught is really important when we commit to mentoring them professionally.

We are happy to hire more but our local bootcamp is out of graduates :)


This a thousand times. Hire for attitude, pay for skill (and keep pay in line with skill as skill increases).


The problem with this question is that there are probably a long list of attributes which are much more important than technical skills. The bootcamps largely only address the technical skills. They can't turn you into "great to work with" or "smells nice."

Edit: So, you can't say that a candidate is a good or bad hire based on which bootcamp they attended.


I'd say more than that, the best people I've worked with in software development have been those driven to learn and try things... Those who don't know something who will take the time to read/learn enough to try something, then try it.

Skill and experience come with time... a personal drive to learn/try things is more than something that can be learned in a bootcamp.


I'm also interested in this question, not because of the issue of saturation, but more because I am skeptical that a bootcamp that lasts ~12 weeks could teach someone enough to be a professional software developer.


I felt that in my CS degree program I didn't really learn a lot that set me up to be a professional software developer either. It made me do some coding and learn some algorithms, and gave very basic familiarity with how computers work, but that's about it.

The coding projects were, in hindsight, pretty pathetic compared to what I can do now. I wish the program had forced us (or tricked us) into becoming more mature programmers, just by doing a lot of coding and holding our code to higher standards. Come graduation, the best engineers had gotten the experience to mature in this way entirely outside of our classes. I didn't get that at all so I was very behind.

I don't see a reason one couldn't learn the useful skills in 12 weeks. Except, possibly, for the sorts of mathematical intuition that you get from studying CS theory.


I would agree with many of your points about CS degrees, I certainly got most of my experience from internships outside of the course.

However. I think I got a huge amount of intuition on a wide range of engineering problems from my degree. I did modules on compilers, real time systems, operating systems, control systems, security, genetic algorithms, databases, web services, and many more, and while the depth on each of those topics was not great, I feel that if presented with any of those problems now I would have a very solid starting point, and more importantly, when looking at problems in my day job, I have a far broader set of experience that I can draw from, which helps me make much more informed decisions.

I don't think it's the mathematical intuition, I think it's the engineering intuition.


It's a strange dichotomy. Programming in the real world has its theoretical side, its "craftsmanship" side, and its soft skills. It's entirely possible to get through a CS degree without learning craftsmanship, which is more amenable to a traditional apprenticeship structure.


I guess the best students of your program managed to find something they liked a lot (like machine learning, compilers, embedded, etc.) and got specialized in it, while the majority of the students just followed along somewhat passively - I don't mean to be condescending, it's sort of to what happened to me as well, and still now I regret not to have taken more time to think of what I wanted to do and pick my courses more carefully.


Yeah, I think that's common. A lot of people also worked on coding projects outside classes - people came in with experience setting up LAMP stacks, that sort of thing. Others ran the school newspaper's website or played around with startup ideas.

But there's not a class where you learn Linux + shell commands and basic sysadmin-y things, and for those of us who didn't really know what we liked and just followed along through the coursework, it was easy to pretty much not learn any of that useful stuff.. ever. Not before graduation at least.


I think there are strengths and weaknesses to the approach.

I got a BS in Computer Science from liberal arts school with a theory-focused CS department.

Pros:

- I developed a very strong sense of code smell. Intuition. My department cared about elegance and good coding practices. I used to be a TA and my prof even had a couple points dedicated to "style" on his grading rubric. I don't think this is something you can pick up in 12 weeks, but at the same time, there are plenty of college CS programs that don't teach best practices.

- Algorithms. Data structures. Systems. Math. Yeah, I probably never have to write out a proof as to why a program is O(nlogn) again but not all programming jobs are full-stack dev stuff. These subjects are a lot more difficult to teach yourself than just reading a book about Javascript. There are a lot of careers in programming that require strong theoretical CS knowledge. Go to Glassdoor and look at the interview questions for entry-level programmers at Google or Amazon.

Cons:

- Didn't know anything about industry practices. None of our professors had ever held a job in the industry.

- Teaches "irrelevant" stuff. Now, this is a commonly cited as an issue with traditional education. I actually disagree because you never know what's going to be relevant in your future. If you go after a specific subset of the field from the start ("I am going to be a full-stack developer") you are inherently limiting your future. You don't know what you don't know. And you don't know if that's something you're missing out on because you never tried it.


I can respond as both a graduate and as someone who was later involved in hiring bootcamp graduates. About two years ago, I entered into the first Code Fellows JavaScript bootcamp. The course lasted 8 weeks and I was offered a job at around week 6, which I accepted. Most of my time has been spent on loan to a Fortune 100 company. I entered into the program with technical experience in a non-development role and some hobbyist development experience. However, I never viewed my course at Code Fellows as the source of everything I would need to know. Instead, it was about three things: motivation, resources, and credibility.

Everything I learned in class, I could have taught myself. However, working with others and having built-in schedules and accountability helped me learn what I may never have followed through on alone. Also, being guided toward achievable milestones is immensely valuable. In those ways and others, the course helped maintain my motivation. And, as inevitably happens when learning something completely new, I encountered some hurdles. Usually, it was worth working through those problems myself. But there were one or two that I encountered that stymied me, and might've killed my momentum. Having access to fellow students as well as the instructors was invaluable in those times, and allowed me to continue learning.

Most importantly for me, the course gave me some level of credibility. I had an atypical background and, while development was something that interested me, I didn't see my resume getting any traction. Code Fellows gave me an in, and allowed me to show what I was capable of - that is ultimately what got me hired and has brought me success since. Since being hired, my salary has almost doubled and I have risen from an entry-level position to an architecting role in one of our top teams. If that sounds unlikely, I've had trouble accepting it myself. All it has shown me is that there are ample opportunities for capable people who are willing to put in hard work.

Finally, hiring. It is difficult to find good developers for entry positions. It isn't that hard to find experienced developers, if you're willing and able to pay. But new devs are difficult to sift through. Many look good on paper - maybe they left a good impression at a meetup, or their GitHub profile looks solid, etc. However, it is amazing how many of those people really are... not a good fit. Bootcamps have helped us to weed out those we aren't interested in, and given us a slate of candidates that have a much better chance of working out.


I suppose it would teach them the bare minimum to where they'd be at a teachable state on the job and potentially contributing soon thereafter, but yeah, it has to be pretty rough for both parties.


I think it probably depends massively on the skills and experience of the person attending the bootcamp. If the extent of their technical skills is being able to make a good-looking Powerpoint, then I'd be astonished if 12 weeks were enough to make them even minimally employable (unless they really are some kind of eidetic wunderkind); if, however, they had a hobbyist's knowledge of - let's say - a few web technologies, or perhaps had previous informal development experience, then a 12 week crash course on a carefully curated set of the absolute fundamentals to make someone a junior developer might result in someone worth giving a job to.

That said, I'm suspicious of this too. You can certainly teach someone git, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and Rails in 12 weeks - but you can't go very deep with any of them.


This is the thing. I could imagine hiring a person with a basic knowledge in that set of stuff to work on a typical startup Rail app. Great.

But if the company decided that they needed a new component that would be a standalone Java service (or whatever), I a) wouldn't feel confident that the person would be able to pick up Java in a reasonable amount of time, and b) wouldn't trust them to structure the application in a good way, as they just don't have the experience building real things.


I wouldn't trust a recent cs grad to do that either, if the language wasn't Java.


Can it teach you enough to be an entry level dev? Probably. Professional devs come from on the job experience not classrooms. Not that there isn't some value from class learning but experience is the most important from what I see. Disclaimer: I don't have college experience. I just went to a 2 year tech school that you all would laugh at. If I could go back I still think I would prefer a 4 year program but I've also been working steady for almost 10 years now. Some of my B.S. degree friends aren't.


Unless a bootcamp graduates 100% of those who sign up and has no filters on who may apply, there is some selection effect. Even without these there is some selection effect in just the people having to choose to attend.

If you took 100 random people and put them in a coding bootcamp, I would expect far worse results.


The thing is that bootcamps are also businesses trying to grow. The filtering process exists, but it's not as great as it should be. I took one of them, and wish about 25% of my class hadn't been accepted so we could have actually picked up the pace.

Regardless, no hiring manager should expect someone to jump into a professional role. The program teaches you the basics and how to find relevant resources to help you learn. If a hiring manager is expecting more than that, that's on them, not the program.


I'm a graduate from a bootcamp, and I can quite confidently say my company would hire again. I've been there almost a year and feel as if I contribute a significant amount to the team. Feel free to ama


Is there anything you feel like you should have learned or studied prior to bootcamp? (Either to make things easier or to have gotten more out of the program). A friend of mine is looking to join a bootcamp and comes from an economics background, so he's looking to get a good baseline before attending one.


What was your programming experience like before the bootcamp, and then after it? What sort of depth did you learn to?

Would you feel confident in starting a job at a company that used a language you don't already know?


Before the bootcamp, I new basic HTML and CSS. I'm now working as a rails dev, with lots of work in JavaScript too. That would entirely depend on the company and the language. So I guess that says something. I wouldn't feel confident in a company that mainly uses functional languages, as I'm mainly used to OO principals. In saying that, it's not something I wouldn't want to learn


I am at a similar level of experience and have been interested in learning more about programming, with the hope of pursuing it as a potential career path down the line. It is encouraging to hear about someone else's success. Can you tell me more about the program you used? What were you doing for work before the bootcamp?

Thanks!


thanks, that mostly answers my questions as well but if you want to address them too, feel free :)


While working, how much mentoring did you get from your company, and at what level was your position (eg from junior to senior dev)? Thanks for answering...


what is the specifics of the job you have (front end, back end, etc)? What languages do you use? How long/intense was the bootcamp? If you could talk about your salary that would be great but of course I'd totally get it if you chose not to answer this one.


I haven't actually hired anyone from a bootcamp, but I was involved a bit with a local one to a minor degree (a guest lecture once).

I do think college in C.S. changed my brain in interesting ways, but the number of really good professors I had was probably small in my major, and smaller outside.

I find myself mostly using some very minor bits of discrete math in the end, and college left me with a employeeable but misguided interest in Java that I quickly learned I probably didn't like so much. Still, there were some abstract projects that were conceptually difficult. On the job learning is more useful.

Looking at the program I was talking to's syllabus, it was pretty much all "near best of breed" tech presented in a good order with a focus on automated testing.

Universities are trying to avoid being career farms, and yes, you want to learn things that last, but I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Some of the best people I've worked with with art or music majors. On a similar front, C.S. programs don't do a great job of teaching what industry really feels like - if I had known, I might not have gone into C.S. :)

A C.S/related degree helps a hiring decision, but I'm not sold on it if there are projects to back it up, and is no guarantee of awesomeness. I do like to see some four year degree on a resume still though.

I think you somewhat want proof of being able to learn, and also learning how to learn, and an appreciation for things like reliability and performance and "good code" and things like that. However you come to them is ok.


> "On a similar front, C.S. programs don't do a great job of teaching what industry really feels like - if I had known, I might not have gone into C.S."

Just curious, what would you have majored in to know what the industry is like?


I don't think it's possible.

Internships or co-ops I highly recommend along the way, but when you're that inexperienced you really won't see much of the organizational-structure/politics/churn/team-dynamics that can often exist.

I'm not saying don't do it, but I am saying the creative burst of coding awesomeness that I so much love about tech has a lot of other things around it all of the time, and you don't usually see that in college.


Hired a guy who took himself halfway around the world to crash-course in dev for 3 months after graduating a science degree.

Absolutely would hire again. Not just because he's damned skilled for a "junior" but the commitment to give up everything and haul ass across the world says something that coding literacy can't.


I've worked with 5 developers that have come out of the bootcamps. Only 1 of them was a "good hire". He exhibited the same behavior your guy did: commitment.


We hired from one a while back. Guy was good/ok but came with some attitude issues for someone in his first role. Having said that, some of our best hires have been interns that stayed as full time developers (not from bootcamp per se, but straight out of Uni or equivalent diploma courses). Those were some of the best people I worked with.


Bootcamp graduate here. Short story: Took a low paying startup job to get my foot in the door, 2 months later got a much better offer, first place offered me a raise but not match, I said ok bye. Next day I walk in the CTO (who supervises me) says "why are you leaving" I say "no match" he says "Let me smash some heads." An hour later I have a match.

tl;dr CTO fights to keep me.

Some other notes: I think the quality of instruction was very high at my particular camp. In retrospect I feel I was perfectly well prepared to contribute from day 1. However, I'm a philomath and my skill set and personality are both good fits for coding. I probably would have made it without a boot camp, the boot camp just got me there faster.

Happy to answer any questions about my camp experience, motivations, contribution level, etc.


What camp?


so, um, as someone who has considered entering into a bootcamp program, I have a question:

Why are there so expensive? (10k is more than what I am paying for my BSc degree at McGill)


In my experience they're operating like for-profit colleges. They charge so much because they can. People want to believe that they can sign up for a course and leave a new person. The reality is that you have to put in the hard work to be good enough to hold your own at development shop. So those that are hirable after doing a bootcamp are mostly likely the ones that would have been successful developers if they had just stayed at home and studied. Those that are less than desirable hires make up the majority of the students. Bootcamps are cash cows.


What you must not forget is the fact that a bootcamp only costs you 8-12 weeks in full-time salary on top of the 10k, whereas a BSc costs you 3-4 years of full time salary. I don't think that all that many people would do highschool-bootcamp. Most people have a BSc and at least a semi technical background. For them a second BSc is not really an options because it would take them out of the loop for too long.


Canada genearlly has 3 to 1 subsidies for studies. For my program (Engineering at Waterloo) It cost me $12k per "year" (per two semesters) all in (books, coop fees, tuition, endowment fund, lab fees) and it cost the government about $30k over the same period. Which means the overall cost of my degree was around $170k. I was also able to claim back the taxes on a portion of what I paid, so the total cost is slightly higher.

Looked at from this lens, $10k isn't much for a program that will give you skills to earn about the same salary after a year of work that a physical sciences engineer can attain.


It should also be noted that Ontario has the highest tuition rates in Canada. Also, Waterloo is typically viewed as the most prestigious Engineering school in Canada (the Stanford of Canada).

http://www.macleans.ca/interactive-how-canadian-tuition-fees...


Think through the business model. $10k * x cohorts per year * y students per cohort doesn't add up to a whole lot of revenue. How many salaries does that need to support? What do rent, insurance, advertising, employee benefits, etc cost? What could the founder (presumably a talented senior developer) earn by working as an employee and not running a bootcamp?

The original question seems to suggest that students who take this path are more alike than different. There is surely a wide spectrum of graduates from the brightest student at the most selective bootcamp to the least engaged student at a poorly run school. I don't think you can generalize any more than you can for cs graduates.


There are full time bootcamps in Utah that include housing that are 9k. 12 weeks.


McGill is subsidized right?


It is subsidized in the sense that local (Quebec students) pay less than Canadian students and significantly less than international students.


Yes.


My company has hired 4 bootcamp graduates (myself included). 2 of them were a year before me and no longer work in the industry. I'm very confident they would hire me again. They even hired another student I recommended. The major difference between the two of us and the two of them were personality traits, not course material. It always comes back down to the human factor.


my company had a special internal 1 month bootcamp for new hires and unfortunately so much was taught to them, that when they were sent to production they forgot what they had learned on day 1. Moral : It's about individual skill. Put them into production and the committed ones will always perform better no matter they are from bootcamp or not.


At a previous job, we hired two people from General Assembly. One was decent; the other far less so. Admittedly, the hire that was less useful had other issues in terms of attitude, which perhaps we should have caught during the interview process.


I am a General Assembly graduate, who was able to interview another GA grad for an open position. He really sucked. I'm really surprised he made it through the course. GA needs to have more stringent qualifications for calling yourself a 'graduate' and not just someone who copied and pasted rails tutorials and called it a personal project.


Could you clarify what you mean by 'attitude problems'? I assume something like 'unwillingness to learn new things and admit mistakes, etc' but I'd like to know an employers point of view.


Sure. It was a sense of arrogance and inflated ego more than anything else. Just because you went through ten weeks of boot camp doesn't mean that you're a master at your craft. Huge mistakes were made left and right without any sense of responsibility, accountability, or willingness to learn from one's mistakes.


We've hired 2 (so far). I was hesitant at first since those boot camps sound like a for-profit college.

One of the hires has been on my product team and is a total badass. Better with ~1 year of experience than I ever was.


I was a bootcamp graduate, feel free to ping me at mariojgintili@gmail.com :)

So far so good in my company! But I've only worked in web development ever since I graduated, would like try something new later on


I've been a bootcamp instructor for the last 2 years and have seen the full spectrum of students come through in that time; it's not so much about the programs themselves but rather the students as individuals. Some have a better understanding of their career goals and are more dedicated than others, and it typically reflects on the placements they'll receive after completing the program. IMO it's no different than the type of graduates coming out of the average university today.


What does the general curriculum cover in a bootcamp? I'm just curious to compare it to the traditional 4 year degree etc.


Bootcamp curriculum is specialized to a career path, you can't compare it to the whole of a traditional 4 year degree. If anything, it relates closest to a declared Major/Minor within that 4 year degree.


Yes! (This was in NYC, through The Flatiron School)


we hired an english teacher from a local rails bootcamp and he has been great. wouldn't look back. this speaks more to personality than experience of course, but in a market strived for developers I am glad to see those with an interest in the field getting the opportunity to explore it professionally.


I did gSchool and am now a fully contributing member to our dev team. There are definitely a few shortfalls compared to a traditional CS degree, but day-to-day writing code and delivering features the difference is relatively negligible.




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