Things to know before choosing a bootcamp

A quick run down of things to consider before choosing a bootcamp

One of the most interesting things about the IT space is that it is not degree or certificate reliant; daily, we see more and more people become proficient in whatever path they choose through short, intense courses designed to provide the skills needed for their desired jobs.

Bootcamps are short usually running from a couple of weeks to a couple of months and due to the brevity of their duration, they are usually intense — cramping as much knowledge as possible into these short bouts of time. Bootcamps often pride themselves on how much practical knowledge they can sufficiently transfer during the shortest possible time.

Most recently, bootcamps have become more popular even so in the Tech/IT community since emphasis is often on how much practical knowledge you have than on degree or certificate. Bootcamps are often divided into cohorts based on fields of interest thereby grouping people of like minds or interests together.

Bootcamps are inarguably one of the best things to have happened to informal education in recent times. For one, bootcamps ensure that people become skilled in their desired field within the shortest possible time, they also allow students focus on their interests without being bombarded with several irrelevant information that is intertwined with traditional education. Bootcamps also allow people who otherwise cannot afford formal education to learn the skills needed for their desired jobs at little or no cost at all. In so many ways, bootcamps are a welcome idea globally and we see well established citadels of learning embrace the idea of this in terms of Nanodegrees, MOOCs and short courses which are centred on skills development.

Whilst bootcamps may have come with a lot of opportunities and ground breaking advances in education, there are still a couple of things that must be taken into consideration before embarking on them. The sheer ability for people to abuse this opportunity is ever on the rise and there is the need to get better educated on the subject matter before signing up.

In this article, I will talk about how best to select what bootcamp to join, how to maximize the opportunities therein, the pitfalls to avoid, how I and several other people have leveraged them for career advancement and so much more.

I believe the first thing to note about bootcamps is:

  • Bootcamps are always available: People often get drawn into the illusion that they must join a certain bootcamp immediately even if they are currently involved in several others and they know realistically, they will not be able to meet up with all the demands of a fresh bootcamp. The reason why people do this is because they are under the illusion that that opportunity may never come again. While it is possible that a certain bootcamp is scarce due to the kind of schedule they run, there are several other bootcamps that will adequately suffice so you can never get stranded. Instead, face the ones you have going head-on, finish up with them and if you are still interested, look for the next available one. Do not jettison what you have going for another unless you have weighted the matter adequately and you know that is the best line of action.
  • Before you decide on a bootcamp, check the course outline: Are they offering what you want, can you leverage the experiences you would gain from this in your career and will they be meeting your expectations? Personally, I prefer bootcamps that are practical oriented because it boosts my portfolio and the experience always counts for something. Often times, there are several bootcamps to choose from but their focus could be different. Choose what appeals to you most, what is more beneficial to your career and what you can easily leverage in the future.

The reason why it is critical that you look through their proposed syllabus is so that you can set your expectations correctly.

  • Asides knowledge, what else is in the offering? Truth be told, knowledge can be sought easily on YouTube, blog posts, textbooks etc. but what makes bootcamps special is the extra they can offer. Some bootcamps offer career counselling, CV processing, job fairs, internships, mentoring and networking while others offer nothing in addition. Therefore, you must be deliberate about searching out the other offerings so you can maximize your bootcamp experience
  • What is the time requirement for the bootcamp? When filling out bootcamp forms, there is usually space for candidates to fill in how much time they can spare weekly or daily for the bootcamp. Some others have their minimum daily or weekly commitment time specified in the bootcamp requirement. I know a lot of people do not pay cognizance to this aspect of the requirement however, it is important you do because this gives a hint to how rigorous or demanding the bootcamp will be. Generally, the greater the number of commitment hours required daily, the more rigorous the bootcamp will be. If you already have a lot of things placing a lot of demand on your time daily, say, a full-time job, then you need to be deliberate about watching out for this requirement so as to better structure your routines or choose a less demanding bootcamp.
  • A bootcamp at a time: Since most bootcamps are run virtually, people often tend to take one more than one bootcamp per time. In my own opinion, I would advice against this. This is because the aim of committing to any bootcamp is to complete it having passed all your exercises, assignments, tests and capstone projects. However, if you juggle more than what you can handle, it affects your overall output and it is the leading cause for abandoned bootcamps. Agreed, most bootcamps are self paced so you could finish earlier than anticipated but it is better to at least be far gone in one before taking up another.
  • Free vs Paid-for Bootcamps: It is advisable to start with free bootcamps especially if you are just learning the desired path so you need all the knowledge you can access. Also, free bootcamps have less constraints and are usually easier to navigate so they will help you get a hang of learning this way. Usually, the paid-for bootcamps are focus driven. That is, it is usually narrowed down to a kind of tool, a specific skillset etc. So, it is more advisable for people with prior knowledge. The free bootcamps are more general and usually provide a holistic knowledge on the subject of interest. How long should you leverage the free stuff? For as long as possible. When the free stuff does not serve you anymore, you will know; and at that point, you are ready to take on the paid-for bootcamps.

In summary, bootcamps are very good in gaining knowledge, building your skillset and expanding your portfolio which you can leverage for employment. In addition, bootcamps encourage networking, peer-to-peer development and collaborations which are very useful skills in getting your desired jobs. However, there are some things to watch out for when applying to a bootcamp and these are what I have highlighted above (based on personal experience and the experiences of others).

I hope the article it was insightful. You can reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn, I would be glad to hear from you.



Data Science, Software Development and lots of Satire...

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Data Science, Software Development and lots of Satire...