By now, you may have figured out that learning how to code is the way you want to go, but perhaps you’re still struggling to figure out which way you should go to get there. What’s the best way to become a developer?
Even after you’ve made the decision to learn how to code for whatever motivating reason —financial stability, an improved quality of life, a more challenging career, a chance to upskill and grow in your current job, a last opportunity to get into STEM fields before it’s too late, etc—what follows is often a ton of questions and even more doubts: Can I actually get a decent job as a developer without a Computer Science Degree? Should I take the leap and attend a coding bootcamp? Should I try doing a massive online open course?
Here to give you a little guidance along the way is one of our Full Stack Instructors at CodeOp who’s uniquely placed to help out with insights into the CS degree vs coding bootcamp dilemma. Thainá holds a degree in Computer Science and teaches Full Stack Development at our bootcamps, and so is armed with all the insider information to help you better understand the differences between the two.
First off, tell us a little about yourself. What drives you and why did you get into coding?
My name is Thainá, I use she/her and they/them pronouns, and I’m a Full Stack Instructor at CodeOp.
Since I was a kid, I’ve loved science, physics and the planet. The first time I heard about programming and what a programmer does, I remember being completely fascinated. My first thought was “This is what I want to do with my life”.
I realized very early on how it can be difficult to be both queer and a woman, and so fighting for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights is part of who I am. I have always loved to teach and so there’s no wonder why today I’m working on CodeOp.
Three essential things I can’t live without: hammocks, Japanese, Korean, and Nepalese food, and my computer.
You’ve done a Computer Science degree and now you teach at a coding bootcamp, which involves 2 very different approaches to learning. What differences do you see between the two?
Everything! The three main differences that come to my mind are:
– At university I learnt alongside more than 50 students, while in a bootcamp students learn alongside just a few other students in smaller classes. It’s more difficult to get individual attention at university. There was the day once where I scheduled a meeting with my professor because I had bugs in my project, and when I entered his office the first thing he said to me was that there were more than 5 students waiting so I had to be fast. It often felt like I had nobody to turn to when I had blockers, and in general I didn’t have much support.
– There was a lot of theoretical content to learn as part of my degree, as opposed to learning at a bootcamp where you do more hands-on, project-based learning and you generally learn by doing. The pros of learning a lot of theoretical content is that I feel I know a bit about all computer science fields, and so I have the knowledge to choose any career related to it. However, the truth, in my opinion, is that you become a good programmer through practice and you will generally always practice with something you’re working or more interested in. This means that in the end, you’ll probably never use what you learnt in university and eventually forget most of it.
– At University, I didn’t get any individual attention or support while studying, while in a bootcamp it’s completely the opposite. Instructors work closely with students to help them understand the subject matter. I really felt the system of hierarchy when I was at university, and sometimes had the feeling that I would never measure up to my professors. At a bootcamp, you can ask any questions and voice your frustrations without judgment.
What is the difference between a CS degree curriculum and a full stack development bootcamp curriculum?
As part of my degree, I learnt, the history of the internet, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, internet security methods, and cryptography. I worked with a raspberry Pi, studied each component of a computer, computer memory and how to save it, and of course, how to create softwares using programming languages. I felt they prepared me to know (and also try) a bit of everything so then I would have the possibility to choose the field I liked the most.
It’s often discussed that employers prefer to hire students who have done a computer science degree over those who have done a bootcamp. In your opinion, do you think it makes a difference hiring a CS graduate versus a bootcamp graduate?
Clearly, there are differences between the two, but those differences are not relevant for gaining a job as a programmer—both graduates can do the job. A real case scenario example: if you have a bug that crashes your computer, a computer science student will know what is going on in the computer’s memory and so will be able to fix it based on that, but the bootcamp student will probably have seen the bug before and so will already know how to solve it. This means that despite these different learning experiences, both programmers will be able to get the job done.
Which format (degree or bootcamp) do you think prepares students better for a career in the tech industry?
I personally think both prepare you very well. However, an added benefit I can see from doing a bootcamp is that nobody told me what to expect or do in a technical job interview. We prepare our students for this at CodeOp with a ton of career support. Students get to work with a career coach who can help them to secure a job after the bootcamp and we also have a careers week for our students. This involves soft skills workshops such as CV strategy and strategies for approaching technical interviews, a Google #Iamremarkable workshop, and practice HR interviews with real recruiters, amongst other helpful prep activities.
What type of profile is the right fit for a coding bootcamp?
I would say someone who is resilient, has a problem-solving spirit, and is tenacious!
As an instructor, how do you support your students during the bootcamp with the task of having to learn so much, so quickly?
I try to keep reminding them of the great things they’ve already achieved and to be always present. I also show them that everything seems difficult when you’re learning until you master it, as with everything in life, not just coding.
What’s your opinion of other ways of learning how to code, such as self-taught courses online?
It all depends on your self discipline and also how much you can practice. The more you create projects, commit mistakes and learn from it, the more you’re prepared. Sometimes it’s difficult to learn by yourself because if you have a blocker you won’t have anybody to ask for help, or maybe you don’t even know where to start and don’t have a community to motivate you along the way. For these reasons, I think it’s very possible, but it’s not something for everybody.
What programming languages do you think are the most important to learn?
Python is the most used language in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Data Science which are the fields of the future. Everything today is about analysing data and automating. And SQL…I don’t even need to explain the reason. Databases are in everything.
What’s your general advice for anyone who wants to become a developer?
It’s not as difficult as it seems! Programming can be for anyone, it doesn’t matter where you come from or your age. In terms of how you want to get into it, the decision is largely personal and may depend on where you are in life, your financial situation, education history, time commitment etc. My advice is to weigh up the pros and cons of a degree, immersive bootcamp, or massive online open course to determine what’s best for you, but with the understanding that the first two will transform you into a developer with more of a support system to help you reach that next level (especially at a bootcamp).
And finally. Tell us your best “developer” joke….
Developers definitely don’t make the strongest comedians, but I lived with two programmers and we had lots of coding/developer jokes. One of them was that if one day we didn’t have our stove anymore we could replace it for a computer with 4GB of RAM, running Android Studio 24/7.
Explanation: (You know it’s not a good joke when you need to explain it) Android Studio can really increase a computer temperature to a point it’s impossible to work. It requires patience to work using it – no offence to Android Studio developers!
CodeOp is a tech school that offers bootcamps and workshops for women, transgender and nonbinary folks wanting to transition into or upskill in tech. If you’re interested in learning Full Stack Development, you can download our bootcamp course guide for more information, or get in touch with any questions you might have.