It’s been a bit since I completed my Full Stack Software Engineering Bootcamp. It was a great feeling to complete it, but I definitely knew the hardest part would be landing my first role, after. I took some time after the course ended to catch my breath and get some rest. I also have some entrepreneurial interests that I had to spend some time with and get some things in process for, once my break was over.
Towards the end of September, I started my search for my first entry-level/internship/apprenticeship software engineering role. I attended a virtual career fair and got some good info on internships from a few companies in September and October. I had an initial interview with a big-named company after being recruited during a different conference, the Grace Hopper Celebration. (Side-note; thanks to Google for sponsoring my attendance via a scholarship!). The career fair was canceled at GHC this year, so to still be recruited was nice. I am still waiting to hear back from the company that recruited me there, after having an initial exploratory interview with a recruiter at the company. I won’t name the company here. I was also reached out to by career services from my Bootcamp about another role. Same there, had an interview with the Director of Engineering, and am waiting to hear back. (No test for that one so far, though).
In the meantime, I applied to a couple of entry-level/junior software engineering roles. My resume made it through a few of the ATS’ which I was happy about. As a former recruiter, that wasn’t so much what I was worried about. I have always worried about coding challenges. I don’t typically do well on tests in general as I’m not a good test taker. In technical interview processes, the Hacker Rank or Code Signal tests (or others like them) are basically what a phone screen is for non-technical roles, and most are required before you ever talk to anyone at the hiring company. From a business perspective, it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to filter-out “qualified” candidates and move them forward in the interview process.
My worries about the coding challenges were soon validated after taking the first couple of them. Most of the things on the first couple of coding challenges I took, I had never seen before. What is Big O notation??!?!? LOL. We didn’t learn about that at my Bootcamp. Time complexities. Various data structures and algorithms that I had never heard of or thought to use. (We didn’t study DS & algos in-depth in my Bootcamp either…mainly just arrays and lists and nothing too comprehensive) I looked a lot of the problems up after I finished my attempts to see where I needed to go back and review. I quickly realized there wasn’t a lot I needed to review because a review means you’ve learned it already. I needed to LEARN, not review these topics because I had never been taught these things.
Completing functions was my problem area in Bootcamp (but that’s the entire gist of coding…YIKES!) so I knew leaving Bootcamp I’d need to drill down on those. I also realized that I was having a hard time just trying to figure out what some of the questions were asking me to solve, to begin with. I tried writing out how I would approach it by doing some pseudo-code on paper before attempting to code it out in the test IDEs. That helped, a little, but those fundamentals just weren’t locked in the way needed to be, clearly. Where were the project-based coding challenges?!?! LOL.
Recently, one of the companies I really wanted to work for reached out to me after getting my name from an engineering manager who worked there. He had tweeted about some upcoming roles a few months prior and I wanted to be a part of their apprenticeship program. Due to COVID-19, they stated they were no longer doing apprenticeships, but the recruiter stated they had some regular roles. I decided to give it a shot, just to check out the coding challenge. It was the same type of test I had tried before, and it was HARD!!! I literally struggled, and none of my test cases passed. I was (obviously) notified they would not be moving forward with my application after they reviewed my Code Signal results. That would make the third coding challenge I had completed and gotten a, “Thanks, but no thanks” for.
So, with all of that being said, I’ve basically come to realize I need to start over. I am going to go the self-taught route at this point. I do have a passion for design. I’d love to pursue front-end engineering as my main engineering path. I have talked to a few other people who have gone to different Bootcamps, and while they all agreed supplementation is often needed after Bootcamp (and normal), they’ve advised that the program I attended was lacking in some of the most critical and fundamental topics/subjects. Finding out that most people’s Bootcamps start at 16 weeks and quite a few Bootcamps last 6 months was also a little shocking. My program was 12 weeks. Finding out that not learning a framework for JS wasn’t normal was disappointing, but not a shock (The initial advertisement I saw for the Bootcamp mentioned React would be taught; it wasn’t. There were a good 2 or 3 other topics that were listed on our syllabus as well, that weren’t taught.) React, Vue, Angular, etc. are in almost every single Frontend job description. I didn’t learn any of those. I also have a new mentor who is going to help me navigate this process. We know each other from Instagram. (Use all your tools for networking!)
For now, I’m withholding the name of the Bootcamp I attended, but I do have a suggestion: Don’t ever sign up to be the first cohort of a Bootcamp. Kinks and refining of processes always need to take place and unfortunately, that initial class will bear the brunt and consequences of those deficiencies. The Bootcamp wasn’t free either. It was extremely expensive. I went in knowing being in a first cohort was a risk, but this was beyond that. Bootcamp is supposed to be a stepping stone, and more learning is required after, typically, but both myself and those I sought counsel from after completing Bootcamp agree (after sharing a lot of other things I won’t get into here) — in simple terms, my program missed the mark.
Action Plan: I am literally going to go back to square one and start a comprehensive online path for web development through a couple of the online learning sites I like using, and then take some specialty courses on DS & algos to make sure I have a solid, firm, locked down understanding and can pass coding challenges in the future. I’ll also finish completing a front-end specific path as well. The first program I am going to do is 300 hours (web dev comprehensive) and the second one is 70 hours (front end). Thankfully, the most I’ll be spending on all of this combined is about $150. Also, several projects will be built out of these courses, so more to add to my portfolio, which always helps.
I’m still committed to landing an engineering role, but to say I’m not disappointed I wasn’t able to come out of the program and pass these coding challenges would be a lie. I am disappointed! BUT, I have heard, on so many occasions that this journey is about perseverance and resilience. Harping on what didn’t/isn’t working, for whatever those reasons may be, is not going to get me employed. It’s my ability to bounce back, and get done, what needs to get done that will. Cues Big Sean’s “Bounce Back”. My savings isn’t going to last forever! LOL. I have to buckle down. I need to land a role. So, the perseverance/resilience phase is the part of my journey I’m currently on. Let’s see what I can make shake with this self-taught route.