Did you want to switch careers into tech, but not sure if you can quit your job and learn to code at a full-time bootcamp? In this hour-long webinar, we talked with a panel of part-time bootcamp alumni from Fullstack Academy, Ironhack, and New York Code + Design Academy to hear how they balanced other commitments with learning to code. Plus, they answered tons of audience questions – rewatch it here:
I'm really excited for today's webinar. We talk a lot about the kind of career transformation that you can make when you quit your job and go to an immersive bootcamp for 12 weeks to six months. But for the next hour, we're going to talk about the part-time bootcamp experience and what it's like to study while you're balancing other commitments.
Mauro Restuccia is a graduate of Fullstack Academy’s Fullstack Flex program. He’s now a Senior Software Engineer at 7 Park Data, but he used bootcamp to upskill at his company before eventually moving up and moving out.
Nikki Parsons graduated from Ironhack’s part-time coding bootcamp in Barcelona, Spain. Her background is in hotel management and customer service – not a techie at all. Before Ironhack, Nikki was working remotely at a consultancy firm, but knew it was not going to work out, so expanded her options with the part-time Ironhack bootcamp . She graduated in 2016 and after Ironhack, she created the Match the Bar app – it helps you find a bar to watch a match in Barcelona!
David Bahr graduated from New York Code + Design Academy two months ago. Before NYCDA, he ran a LED lighting distribution business, and was starting to build a multi-family real estate portfolio in Vermont. Even after one failed attempt, he was able to stay motivated and succeed while learning part-time.
Liz Eggleston is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Course Report.
Liz: Did any of you weigh a decision between a part-time and a full-time bootcamp? Why did you choose part-time over that full-time immersive experience?
Mauro: In my case, I think I didn't have an option. I needed to keep working. For me, committing to a bootcamp full-time was not really possible. The part-time course was still hard because it was at night and during the weekends. But I ended up deciding to do it and I'm very happy I made that decision.
Nikki: For me, part-time made more sense for a number of reasons:
Liz: Why did each of you choose the bootcamp that you attended? How did you go through the research process?
David: I was looking at Galvanize and Fullstack Academy. One of the reasons I didn't choose a full-time program was because they were about $22,000, and I didn't know how much I wanted to code. I had a developer I worked with in my old business, and I was in awe because I thought he was a wizard.
I chose the New York Code + Design Academy because it was three days a week. I could still keep four day weekends to work on my own projects, and the cost was much lower.
Stu asks: Did your part-time bootcamp qualify you for tuition deferment?
Nikki: No – but because I’m a woman in tech, I got $1000 off tuition. I know a lot of these programs have some kind of scholarship grant – not just Ironhack. I'm sure there are a few out there that do something similar.
Mauro: There were no deferred tuition options at the time that I did Fullstack Academy. Maybe they have something now, but they were only designed for full-time students at that point.
Liz: Does anybody else want to talk about their research process and what stood out about the bootcamp that you chose?
Nikki: There are a lot of coding bootcamps in Barcelona. In fact, the managing director of Barcelona Code Academy is a friend of mine! But I chose Ironhack mainly because it was a brand new part-time program. It was the first session here in Barcelona, so it was a little bit unknown. The space was brand new. They had a really nice big building in Pamplona – a really nice district here in Barcelona. It's right near all the gaming companies and everything – so it's a really nice area.
I've actually been back to the Ironhack classroom a few times after leaving the bootcamp, and it gets better every time. Now they have typical stuff – ping pong tables and lovely cushions in the auditorium. They didn't have cushions when I was there and now I'm like, "It's so much nicer now." It was nice before, but it's really nice now!
Liz: Mauro, some people may think or assume that a bootcamp is only for total tech beginners, but you had some experience before in IT. Did you feel like Fullstack would be challenging enough even though you had that background in tech already?
Liz: Tell us about the time commitment for each part-time bootcamp – how many hours were you expected to be in the classroom?
Nikki: At Ironhack, it was Tuesday and Thursdays from 6pm to 9pm in the evening. And Saturday all day, from 10am to 5pm. It was 10 hours a week or more.
Mauro: Fullstack Academy was 6pm to 9pm twice per week. Then we also had these immersive weekends for two days – I think it was from 9am to 6pm. Besides that, we were getting weekend work. On Thursday, we used to get assignments that would require some time out of your weekend to do it. On Wednesdays, we have an open session where we could call people remotely. I used that time especially to study and submit questions. You should commit a lot of time in the course in order to do it right.
Preston asks: did you spend a lot of out of class hours working on homework? Were you spending hours in addition to those 12 to 20 in-class hours?
Nikki: Yeah, definitely. You've got to put in the time to do the homework to keep learning those things you learn in class. Actually, we spent a good chunk of the time that we were together in-person just working on exercises while we had the teacher there to ask.
But you do have to plan. In my case, Sunday was my homework day – I didn't really have time during the week. Ironhack did assign a lot of exercises, but I just don't have time and my instructor understood that I'm working a real job. You do need a few evenings a week to relax because it's very intense. With six months of working and studying – you need some moments to relax.
Tori asks: how did you maintain a work-life study balance? How did you work the bootcamp into your life? What other commitments were you juggling?
David: I did things wrong the first time around at NYCDA. I ended up getting about seven weeks into my bootcamp the first time and I had to drop out. At that time, I was managing nine apartment units and six of them were under construction. It wasn't worth the time to stay at NYCDA because you have to be ready to give up a substantial amount of personal time to get through it.
I did look at that as an advantage the second time around. Looking back on it, you're really just doing yourself a huge disservice by not putting in effort. I had to cancel vacations, really expensive plane flights because I had to get back for this next class. The reason I had to drop out the first time was all because I wasn't ready to commit, and I didn't prioritize it.
Liz: Mauro and Nikki – any other advice you would give to people?
Mauro: If you make the decision to do a bootcamp, then do it. I really enjoyed the process. It definitely took a toll, because I was very busy all the time. I told my employer that I was doing it, so there were no secrets about it – I would recommend doing that. But if you decide to make a career change, then make a commitment. It will be easier, especially if you start spending the proper time on the course. It's up to you – you can learn all those concepts and learn the basics, or you can learn all the concepts and master it.
Nikki: From my perspective, I didn't tell my employer because I was thinking of changing careers. As a result of this, I missed many beginnings of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in particular.
If you can tell your employer, I agree with the others, tell them. But if you don't, I understand that. I wasn’t keeping secrets – if they would’ve asked me, I would’ve told them, because they knew I wasn't happy. It was a bit difficult to juggle this, but I made up for it on Saturdays by coming to Ironhack early and trying to catch up.
Liz: What did you actually learn at the bootcamp – how deep did the curriculum go?
Nikki: I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed at Ironhack at some points, but it worked out in the end. I put the effort in. We covered a lot. Sometimes we didn't go into depth, but they introduced these concepts so that you could figure out more information on your own once you understand which language would be better for a different project.
Liz: Was the part-time bootcamp you went to project-based or more solo?
David: The majority of our projects at NYCDA were group projects. We had three group projects and solo homework, but the majority of the learning took place when you're actually replicating the things that you learned in class.
Nikki: For Ironhack, all of our projects were solo. We did pair programming for one or two activities, but other than that, everything was on your own.
Mauro: In my case, at Fullstack Academy, it was either pair programming or it was a group. You can work by yourself, but all the others were really about teaming up. Pair programming was a very important component to learning how to work with another person the whole day.
Liz: What are you working on now that you've graduated?
Mauro: I'm a software engineer currently working at 7Park Data. Here I'm doing a lot of things, like API's. We are also working with big data and the front-end side of development. Also, I create dashboards built in React.
When I finished the bootcamp, I had a lot of support. Fullstack has a hiring day where you can go and speak with potential employers. Also, you can get advice on how to build your resume, or how to prepare yourself for your career change.
Liz: Did you find that everybody at Fullstack Flex had the same goal as you to get a job as a software engineer?
Mauro: Yes, everybody wanted a change for sure – that was common. You have to prepare yourself, your resume and so on. But that support is available to you. Even today, I can use those resources if I want.
Liz: So you're working as a Software Engineer now, Mauro. Nikki, what are you working on?
Nikki: I have a mobile app here in Barcelona called Match the Bar and it helps people find a sports bar to watch a specific match. You want to see Barcelona or Real Madrid, it will show you a map of the bar showing the match. From a tech point of view, it's quite simple. Actually, this emerged from the Ironhack bootcamp. Originally, it was called Match Finder and it was my final project for the Hack show. So I presented at the Hack Show, and people liked the idea. It won the Hack Show, and I thought, "Oh, wow, this is my first idea that other people like!"
I developed it because it's a problem that I had, because I'm a football crazy person and I love going to Irish bars and watching the English premiership. I always struggle with going to the right place.
I continued developing it with my partner who is actually a Back End Engineer at Social Point, which is a games company here in Barcelona. We developed it into a mobile app in our spare time for fun, for year and a half after the bootcamp. And it wasn't until December of last year that I finally left the consultancy job that I had been hating since two years prior. I finally was able to say, "Okay, we're going to do it. We're going to go full-time!"
Liz: You didn't go through the traditional job search period where you're looking for a job as a software engineer at a company or at a startup. Did you find that Ironhack was able to be supportive with you pursuing your idea for the mobile app, Match the Bar?
Nikki: Yeah, Ironhack is super supportive. If I hadn't done the app, and I had wanted to become a junior web developer right after the course and really make that switch immediately, Ironhack had hiring week. There were judges who were reviewing some of the projects for the Hack Show, so you could actually talk to the companies.
Ironhack also has a really great community on Slack for alumni and students alike. There's thousands of people in this Slack channel from any of the Ironhack campuses – including the US. There’s a #jobs channel. Obviously, we're all either budding entrepreneurs or programmers so there's always stuff going on in that channel, which is actually really useful.
Now Ironhack is doing even more – they recently had a tech conference or fair, partnering with another hiring company. I went there six months ago, and the whole campus was full of exhibitors presenting their company in the auditorium section. I thought, "wow, if you want to find a job, you can definitely find a job.” I went to see the ecosystem and to meet other startups, but it was packed with students and people offering and wanting jobs.
Liz: Did NYCDA help you get that job? What was the process of getting that job after you graduated?
David: I'm the opposite of bougie, but I was out sailing and mentioned that I was doing a bootcamp and a friend said, "Oh, I have a tech consulting company, what are you doing after you graduate?" That happened about five months into the bootcamp.
Liz: Apparently, that person was impressed that you had done a coding bootcamp. Did they think that it was enough to help you transition into doing this job?
David: Yeah, he said a lot of his developers had come out of bootcamps. I think a lot of employers now understand that a bootcamp is enough to get you to the point where you can learn their technology.
Zucheng asks: what was the difference in your salary rise after you've completed the bootcamp program? Do you think that it was worth it?
Mauro: In my case, it definitely paid off in about a year. So I'm glad that I did it.
Nikki: For me financially, not so much right now. Because I'm a founder of a startup, I don't pay myself very much. But as far as happiness, and actually building something that's mine, I think I've definitely got that back. If I did want to give up my app and go and work as a junior web developer or a web developer, I'm sure I would be on the same salary as I had. I came from a background of customer service, but I had already worked my way up in that industry. So I knew I was going to take a pay cut if I did a career change. But tech jobs are very good here in Barcelona, so I wasn't really worried about getting a job.
David: I had my own few businesses before I even started this part-time bootcamp. Three weeks into my job, I am definitely not making as much money as I did before. But it's really a cool experience. Going on Indeed.com and seeing everything that people are asking for... you're thinking, "Oh, I do that. I know this." It's not like when you first graduate college and it's like, "We're looking for a can-do attitude and a bachelor's degree." Now they're saying, "Do you know Postgres and Node?" I’m three weeks into this career, and it gives confidence and it’s inspiring, but financially, hasn't paid off yet.
Sean asks: Was three hours per day of class time enough? Was it difficult to get through that material in just three hours?
Mauro: Well, it definitely is enough if you spend more time outside that alloted period of time. They give you a lot of information, you do a lot of exercises with other people, but at the end of the day, you have to sit yourself down and practice if you want to master it.
Nikki: I don't think you could fit in much more in terms of during the week itself. Because remember, you've worked an entire full day. You've already committed to your regular job, and you've worked a full day and then you've commuted somewhere else – you're a bit frazzled. I don't think you could do more days of the week or more hours in the evening, because I would start tuning out after about three hours.
I think if you're worried about not having time to absorb it all or not having time to cover as much as you want, then plan an additional month before or after, for pre-course work, or maybe after the bootcamp you know what you want to investigate a little bit further. You don't have to make it a six-month bootcamp. You could make it your own version of a seven-month bootcamp and try and get some more experiencer.
David: I'm sure a lot of people viewing this have done YouTube tutorials, or entry level Rails for Zombies, stuff like that. Between Tuesday and Thursday, it's really hard to describe what happens if you haven't touched your project since Tuesday night, and you open your computer on Thursday. I don't think it's ever enough. The whole nature of programming is that it's a lifelong endeavor. It's not like you finish a bootcamp, and then you don't progress the rest of your life. Think of it as the very beginning 10% of learning on a massive scale.
Nikki: Actually, when you touched on Rails for Zombies, this type of stuff reminds me of another reason I chose to do a bootcamp in general. Whether it's part-time or full-time, I needed to do something in person. At least in the beginning, I would have loved to do all these online tutorials or newbie courses, but in order to motivate myself, I needed that kick in the butt to go physically. I've made the financial commitment and I physically have to be here for six months. Now afterwards, I'm much more motivated to learn little things on my own. I think if I had started with just the list of the Ironhack curriculum, and you do it yourself with online tutorials, I never would have done it.
Mauro: I agree.
John Emmanuel asks: did any of your bootcamps offer job guarantees for the part-time coding course?
David: Mine did not offer a job guarantee. But I remember a Skype meeting with one of the campus managers before I joined and asking, "How many people have jobs after?" In that moment, that statistic was supposedly 97%. I don't know what it is today, almost two years later, but I asked that question because I was unsure myself.
Nikki: Ironhack didn’t have a guarantee but they had a statistic at the time.
David: Also, you don't want to completely base your decision on the job placement rate because you don't know if those people are happy. You don't know if those people were just shoved into a position that kind of fit – just be careful with statistics.
I actually went to two bootcamps in-person before NYCDA, and you just have to spend 20 minutes there and sit down on their couches. Maybe hit some ping pong balls or something, because everyone has a really unique feel. I'm really jealous, I want to play ping pong in Barcelona some time!
Liz: This is the perfect way to wrap up – Greg asks, what advice would each panelist give to those considering taking a part-time bootcamp to make a career change? Anything that we didn't touch on that you would tell a friend who is about to start a coding bootcamp?
Mauro: If you're already researching bootcamps, if you have been on Meetup, you definitely have some interest. So you have to ask yourself – it's not about job placement, it's about if you have the curiosity and hunger for more knowledge. If that's the case, you should do it. If you decide to commit to it, and learn as much as you can, then the other things will come - the perfect job, etc. Only do a coding bootcamp when you’re sure you want to gain knowledge – if that's your state, when you should do it.
Nikki: I fully agree.
David: Try your best, you really you should. You're just doing a huge disservice to yourself if you don't.
Thank you so much to our panel! I feel like I've learned so much about the part-time experience in just 40 minutes. Thank you all so much for joining, tuning in and asking questions.
You can follow or tweet at Mauro (@maurorestuccia) or Nikki (@traveller_nikki) on Twitter. Tweet at Course Report, email us, and let us know what you'd like to see in the next Course Report live webinar.
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