3 Misconceptions I See From Bootcampers

My cohort and I recently began the second half of our software engineering bootcamp. Thus, two things have started to happen:

  1. Projects have become increasingly complex
  2. The reality of job-hunting has turned into a fast approaching light down a dark road

While I may face from ageism when venturing to find my first role as a developer after graduation, and have greatly more responsibility due to my parent and single-source-of income for my family status, I do have the benefit of experience (both professionally and general life) that stems from my extra years as compared to my fellow, typically 20-something coding bootcamper. Further, I’ve been a hiring manager multiple times. So I have some perspective. Here are 3 misconceptions, myths, or overall misunderstandings I often hear from the younger students at the bootcamp I’m attending about job hunting and overall career life. If you’re at a bootcamp, or thinking of joining one, without much professional experience, this might be for you.

Misconception #1: Demand is hot. I’m smart and good at this. Getting a job will be easy.

FAANG companies will be knocking on my door. Six-figure job, here I come. Downtown condo in urban millenial enclave? Sign me up. I’ve heard this and more. This can all be summarized in two words: unrealistic expectations.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yes, it’s a fact that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. And yes, their median income surpasses $100,000/year.

But here’s what you may not hear: that high demand is not for you. It’s for who you will be after about 5 years of being in the industry, working long hours, getting smarter, shipping out code (aka, paying your dues), just like everyone else did, including those with computer science degrees.

Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t inflate yourself either. You may be smart. You might’ve even had a great career beforehand. But you’ve done exactly 0 to command the high levels of desirability of seasoned engineers that command high salaries and stock options or RSUs. Prove it first. The rewards will follow.

Misconception #2: I’m Handicapped Because My Tech Stack Sucks

I’ve heard students compare this bootcamp against the other based on what they teach. This one does Ruby as a backend, but that one does JavaScript. This other bootcamp touches on Bootstrap for styling, while this other one only does CSS…

Here’s my take: those details don’t matter much.

Sure, you probably wouldn’t want to get into something like Fortran in your bootcamp. But I doubt any offer that anyway. Most, if not all, will offer a modern tech stack. That’s what you most care about regarding the technology. But I’d argue the most important aspects of your bootcamp have little to do with the details of that tech stack, and more to do with the fundamentals of the academic environment as an institution. Fundamentals such as,

  • Student:teacher ratio
  • Strength of alumni network
  • Availability of career services
  • Costs
  • Percent working in industry within six months of graduation

These are the more important seeds that can help your career flourish successfully during your bootcamp and after graduation. But if you’re still not convinced, search indeed.com or LinkedIn for software engineering jobs. You’ll notice most postings focus less on the particulars of a language (e.g. Python vs Java vs Ruby), and more on the command of important concepts like Object Oriented Programming and REST through a modern language. Trust me: you’ll be picking up other languages as you go along based on your company’s needs anyway.

Misconception #3: Imposter Syndrome to the N

Imposter Syndrome, in its many variations and manifestations, is a real, well-documented feeling people in tech experience. People who you’d never expect to experience it. From successful founders, to graduates of prestigious universities, most of us, if not all of us, face it at least once in our lives.

Bootcampers are particularly susceptible to this, though. Some don’t have much more than a High School degree. Others, while speaking to recruiters or engineers at tech companies, have been told directly and without passion that the company they work for will not hire bootcamp graduates. How could you not have feelings of inadequacy after hearing this?

But the reality is this: tech, more so than many other industries, is a meritocracy. You’ll have to prove that you can build and code. And while it might take longer than you anticipated, in a company with less brand recognition than you had hoped, you will eventually get a job. And after that, people will care much more about what you can do, than where you learned. And so should you.

So remember: grit > pedigree. Continuous learning > degrees. You too will have opportunities to succeed. But mastery comes with time and effort- and that goes for everyone.

Always learning.