Written By Liz Eggleston
Most immersive bootcamps are less than six months and many offer part-time options, allowing parents to balance childcare and work commitments with learning to code. But as a mom thinking about a code school, what should you consider before taking the plunge? Eight moms (who are successful graduates of bootcamps like Flatiron School, Turing, Thinkful, and DigitalCrafts) share their tips for switching careers and re-entering the workforce.
Before you initiate the hunt for the perfect childcare solution, find the time to take an online course or experiment with online tutorials and different software, to see if coding is for you. Prepare yourself for the experience. Research front end development, UX design, and full-stack development. Test the waters and see if any of these spark a passion within.
For example, Christine Oskison, a mom who attended Skillcrush, got started by “volunteering with my church in a technical arts committee and designed slides and keynotes for them. I really loved that I got to play in design and be creative and actually created a pretty cool finished product.”
Jennifer Sardina is a graduate of Flatiron School and started her coding journey with a book: “My brother shared Chris Pine’s book ‘Learn to Program’ with me, which I secretly started reading and fell in love with. I quit my job a couple of months later to go to Flatiron School full time. It was the best decision of my life.”
Once you’re sure you like coding, take the plunge! As Jennifer recalls, “I was working full time, and I’m a full-time mom and wife. I felt like if I wanted to focus on [coding] enough to actually become a programmer, I needed to devote 100% of my time to it. Otherwise, I was afraid it would just become a hobby.”
Dropping an average of $13,600 on a coding bootcamp requires a huge leap of faith. The costs for a parent to enroll in an immersive program include transportation, daycare and technology costs. But 3 to 6 months is more feasible than other education options, as Amanda (a graduate of Tech Elevator) explains: “I have a mortgage and two kids and didn't think it was really possible for me to go back to school for four years and not work full-time. That was part of the reason I chose Tech Elevator.”
Your time will be spent in class, working with partners in the lab, and self-studying at home. To better understand your financial and time expenditures, make a theoretical schedule and budget for the duration of the programs you are interested in. Ensure family members are aware of any sacrifices they’ll need to make on your behalf to support your mission. While it might be costly upfront, coding bootcamps can definitely be worth the investment. Take this advice from Ashley, who graduated from DigitalCrafts and immediately saw a $20,000 pay rise: “Before I started the bootcamp, my husband and I worked on what a typical week's schedule would look like. The bootcamp has set hours and since I still had a 2-year-old at home, I needed to fit those hours into my childcare routine. Would I need extra childcare? Was the bootcamp going to work with the hours I already had? What if I had to stay late? My husband and I sat down together and decided on one night per week where it would be okay for me to stay late and he could manage the childcare. That day would be flexible, depending on schoolwork and his travel schedule. It turned out that things never really happened the way we planned, but it was good to try to get an idea of what those weeks looked like!”
Choosing the right coding immersion program can be as difficult as finding the right college. Think about your goals – are you looking to land a job straight away? Then focus on coding bootcamps with great job outcomes or job guarantees. Or if you’re just looking to upskill in your current job, other factors like time commitment might be more important. You’ll need to consider location, pricing, financing options, curriculum.
Reach out to schools via phone or email to get a better feel of their culture. Ashley, a graduate of DigitalCrafts, says “I was a mom in my 30s – would I be learning in a room with a bunch of 20-year-old men? I researched success stories and looked for my own story in their pre-bootcamp stories. Reading bootcamp reviews also helped with those fears by learning about a wide variety of student backgrounds and successes.”
Do your research, read program reviews, and look at outcomes reports to help define a short list. To Amanda, placement rates were key: “I didn’t want a bootcamp that was going to take my money and not care about my success. Their placement rates were so high, the staff seemed really supportive, and all the reviews I read were really positive. The biggest factor in choosing Tech Elevator was looking at their job placement success.”
Even Super Moms have limitations. Compared to a university, coding bootcamps are relatively short-term. Translation: a bootcamp is going to be rigorous. Identify your learning preferences (online vs in-person), and how much time you are willing to commit (part-time vs full-time) and look for programs that align with your preferences. For mom of three, Jackie Zuker, that meant finding a part-time bootcamp: “I liked that Thinkful offered a Flexible Data Science Bootcamp where you could study part-time or full-time. I had a part-time job as a wildlife biologist while I was studying, there were some weeks where I didn’t work at all, and other weeks where I worked 40 hours a week. So having that flexibility was really nice.”
If you can't make the hours work around your child's schedule, consider an online bootcamp. For example, after the birth of her son in 2015, Sarah Abbett realized that she needed a more flexible career, so she decided to pursue her interest in web development and enrolled in The Software Guild’s online coding bootcamp. "Because of my young son – I’m a single parent – I decided I need to change my career a little bit. The Software Guild requires 20 hours of work per week, which was pretty much all I could handle. I’m still working, and I’ve got a baby, so I can’t do more than that. I saw some online courses that want you to study 8am to 5pm online with the class, and that was not what I was looking for– I liked the part-time aspect of The Software Guild."
Kenlyn felt the same way: “I couldn’t go to an in-person program because I have three kids under 10. I had to find something flexible enough that I wouldn't have to find childcare, yet was a great school that would guarantee a job within a reasonable time frame. And Flatiron School was it. I found them through a search for Learn to Code meetups in Seattle.”
CareerFoundry's remote courses made a career-change into tech possible for new mom Kasia Pryczek: "“The fact that I could stay home with my baby while working from anywhere in the world is what made me give coding a try.”
You don’t need to go it alone. Balance family responsibilities with your spouse. Talk to family members and friends about stepping in to watch the kids from time to time. Get a list of reliable babysitters and be sure to have backups on call. The challenges associated with learning so much so quickly can be staggering. Luckily there are online communities, alumni networks, meetups, forums, and mentorships available to assist you when you stumble. Here are a few ways that bootcampers have made it work:
Expect to be challenged in class and at home. Expect your children to adjust to Mommy being out of the house more often, or busy on the computer all weekend. Everything is constantly changing for children and the same is true for bootcamp students. Yesterday’s technology is obsolete today. And while some abstract topics might come easy to you, others will challenge you to the core. Stay strong, and take advantage of teachers and families when handling unexpected events. Kristina Brown actually used her daughter as inspiration while learning at Turing: “I knew that it was going to be very intense and a lot of work. I actually hyped myself up a lot about it because of my daughter; I knew it would be a lot more difficult, so I was prepared for the worst and it was always in the back of my mind.”
It’s not about where you have been it’s about what you did while you were there. The number one asset for scoring a job in web development is a strong portfolio. Passion combined with an impressive catalog of self-developed apps speaks volumes about your capabilities. Work hard for the duration of the bootcamp and reap the rewards later on.
As Emily Sas, a graduate of Makers Academy, puts it: “Something that really excites me is that the tech industry itself is a true meritocracy. Unlike most industries, people don’t even ask me to explain the gaps in my CV – employers just want to know that you can do what needs to be done. For mums going back to work you do worry about whether you can justify the time ‘out of the game’ – in the tech industry it just hasn’t been an issue at all, and that’s pretty special.”
Finding the right company is as important a decision as finding the right bootcamp. You don’t want to commit to a position that can’t accommodate a flexible schedule for you and your family if need be. You now have the skills and are in control of your future. Take the time to find a company that understands your needs and be sure you understand their expectations. Jennifer weighed her options after Flatiron School: “I thought about working for a small startup, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to have a life. I didn’t know I wanted to work for a large company until I went to XO and fell in love with it. The people are just so happy all the time.”
Committing to a coding bootcamp will inevitably mean tradeoffs – missing bedtime or sacrificing time with your family. But remember that this is short-term and your efforts now will help support your family in the future (plus, you’re modeling that hard work for your children). Take this advice from Ashley Parker, a mom of two: “It’s easy to guilt myself into thinking I’m a terrible mom, so I had to do a lot of positive self-thinking and tell myself that it was ok to take some time and do something for myself. I knew that this career change was something I wanted to prioritize for myself and if I hadn’t done it, I would have regretted it. And today, I think that working in technology has made me a better role model for my family. I have two girls of my own and I want to show them that their mom is awesome!”
Have you balanced the commitment of a coding bootcamp with being a parent? Share how you did it in the comments!
Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp.
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