New Career, Who Dis?
There are several different ways you can learn how to code. In this episode, we discuss computer science degrees, bootcamps, and self-directed learning. Each has benefits and have brought a lot of people into the world of programming. Each also has challenges. We all have had unique paths to programming, so we'll incorporate our experiences and observations.
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New Career, Who Dis?
00:40 - Emma, Kelly, Lindsey’s brief story on how they first got started coding
03:09 - A brief intro to Drupal, which is part of Lindsey’s story.
03:55 - Ali’s Story
06:58 - Emma’s coursework summary & some pros and cons to CS degrees based on our stories
- Emma’s coursework summary
- The self taught peeps thoughts on CS concepts
- Does this help with tech interviews?
- Understanding the Why
- Book Mentioned - Start with Why
12:43 - Ali’s amazing thoughts on education style.
21:44 - thoughts on boot camps
- Thoughts from a boot camp Instructor
- Thoughts on the talent boot camps produce
- What are the major boot camp?
- Who’s the best suited for boot camp?
- Reading the fine print for financial aid.
32:36 - Thoughts on self-directed learning
- Who’s best suited?
- Choosing your own projects
- What are some of our favorite projects
- Types of projects to get started
39:19 - Chatting resources
44:26 - Wins!
- Emma: Conference talks!
- Ali: 1 million reads on her blogs!
- Kelly: Found an affordable 401k option for her company!
- Lindsey: Spoke at Spotify last month!
- My Favorite Free Resources for New Programmers (Ali, DEV Community)
Help us out
Ali [00:00:00] Today we’re going to talk about how to get started in tech. There are a lot of different ways to learn how to code. And in this episode we’re going to discuss boot camps, self-directed learning, and computer science degrees. They all have their benefits and have brought a lot of people into the world of programming but each also has its own challenges. We all learned to code in different ways and we’ll incorporate our experiences our observations today. Let’s get started.
Kelly [00:00:30] Welcome to the ladybug podcast. I’m Kelly.
Ali [00:00:33] I’m Ali.
Emma [00:00:34] I’m Emma.
Lindsey [00:00:34] And I’m Lindsey and we’re debugging the tech industry.
Lindsey [00:00:40] First things first. Where did we learn to code? Emma you can go first.
Emma [00:00:45] So I was in college. I actually was a biology major in college and then quickly realized that I was terrible at it. And so I switched to actuarial science where I took an intro to computer science course and totally fell in love with like binary in hexadecimal and octal. So the rest is really history. I, so, I studied computer science and my first language was Java. And yeah I was a little bit of a late bloomer but I thoroughly enjoy it. So Kelly where did you start?
Kelly [00:01:11] So I have a little bit of a funny story about Java as well, but I got started when I was 11 years old. I wanted to build my own community on Neopets. And if you’re not familiar with what Neopets is, it’s this Web site where you can have your own virtual pet and you can feed it and play games and you can have your own communities and all kinds of stuff. And I really wanted to build my own community and customize it. But you need to know how to code to do that. So I asked my dad for an HTML book and my first book was HTML goodies and I was like awesome. This is a lot of fun. So, fast forward to high school and I take AP Computer Science and my first language in high school was Java and I was so bad at it that I needed a tutor just to pass the class. So I was like I’m never going to do this ever. But you know obviously 17 years later and I’m very clearly still coding so something eventually clicked but it wasn’t Java. Anyway.
Kelly [00:02:11] Lindsey go ahead.
Lindsey [00:02:14] So I was an admin assistant really aimlessly going through my job, was very miserable. My dad sort of suggested coding to me and was like worst case scenario if you hate it you could try something else. So he bought me an ”Introduction to Drupal” book and – quite frankly, I do not recommend starting out as Drupal when you’re learning to code but that’s how I did. And I just continue learning, continue working in the mornings before work. And then I got my first Drupal job. So a few years into that I started learning about accessibility which we’ll probably talk about more on the podcast. Then a year or so after that I started learning about React and VueJS and I’m now a React developer and the rest is kind of history. Ali what about you?
Kelly [00:03:01] I actually want to I want to interject here for a second. Lindsey, can you explain what Drupal is?
Lindsey [00:03:09] Sure, so Drupal is a CMS which stands for a content management system. It’s similar to WordPress except a lot more complex in a lot of ways. So it’s not always the right tool for that job. Hopefully all the people in the Drupal community aren’t hating me for the way I explain this but it’s a very opinionated way of doing things. And it’s basically a CMS, so a place to store your content. The reason why CMSs were really cool at the time that they started coming about is you no longer had to call a webmaster to update your content. You could just update your content by yourself and hire somebody to build all the other things and you could have ownership of your content and didn’t need to be a coder to update it.
Kelly [00:03:51] Cool. All right Ali let’s hear your story.
Ali [00:03:55] Totally. So I learned to code when I also was a sophomore in college similar to Emma. I had no idea what coding even was but I had an extra credit in my time and so I decided to sign up for it because people were always like, ”It’s a good thing to learn and it’ll help you no matter what.” So I signed up for it and I honestly thought that I was going to be learning how to format Word documents or something like that - I had no idea what code was. But I was instead writing Python. It was super fun. We were building games. I just thought it was magical how you could put stuff together and have a program come out of it. So I completely reconfigured my schedule and was like I’m going to double major in computer science. This is my future. This is so cool. And so I started my second class which was in C++ and it was a super intense Data Structures and Algorithms class, very much a weed out class, and I was pulling all nighters and working so hard in that class just to understand it. And I did come out of it with a good grade but I was like if I have to work this hard for it it means that I’m not good enough at it. And so this is really just not for me. Then when I was a Junior in college I had an internship doing mostly Excel data analysis type work and I figured out that I could automate a lot of my own job using the Python skills that I had. And so, from there, I got a software engineering internship and transitioned to working full time in code. I also do have the context of working at a bootcamp too so I worked full time at General Assembly for a few years and still work for them part time so I can definitely give more context on that too.
Emma [00:05:40] There is a lot of stipulation in the tech industry about whether or not you need a computer science degree to be successful and what I find really endearing is that we all came from different backgrounds and yet you know we’re all – I would say – we’re all successful, right, in our own ways. In terms of what success means to us, right, it’s relative. But this question that keeps floating around is do you need a computer science degree to be successful. And back in the day it used to be that you didn’t even need a tech degree because they didn’t exist, right. So my parents like my mom as a senior designer but she’s a math degree and my dad has an engineering degree but now he’s a computer scientist so my question is like in today’s day and age do we need the CS degree to be successful. And I’ll kick things off by say you know I have a computer science degree and in all honesty I don’t necessarily think it helped me all that much. So it’s just chat a little bit about the pros and cons of getting a degree.
Ali [00:06:32] So I think the biggest pro I would think of is the potential to be taken more seriously. People see that you have a computer science degree on paper and are like oh this person really knows their stuff. And there’s a lot of different knowledge that I think that you get from a computer science degree that you then you get from a boot camp or being self-taught usually just the path is a little bit different. So I think that there are definitely huge pros to it.
Emma [00:06:58] Well let me quickly to just describe the coursework that I took that might be quite helpful so I started Intro to Computer Science which was based in Alice. So it’s just drag and drop titles for coding and then we moved in to Intro to Programming which was taught in Java so we learned object oriented. And then my junior year was more about analysis of algorithms and data structures. We also took an assembly language programming class which is really cool to actually like create, and you know, work at that that low level and actually build bread boards and memory and whatnot. Then I also took like a database course and then I took a web development course as well as software engineering. So we got the full blend of like all of these different things. And what I will say is I think I learned the algorithms and the analysis of Big O Time and Big Theta and what not I learned those things quite well but where I actually was lacking was the programming knowledge. So you know we learned Java. But realistically I didn’t walk away with real programming knowledge. I walked away with theory.
Kelly [00:07:58] That’s actually an interesting point you know coming from a self-taught background. I know how to code. But I was up until recently I could never really tell you why I was doing what I was doing is just like I knew this works and I’m going to keep on doing it. But if somebody asked me the theory behind what I was doing I would just shrugged my shoulders and say I don’t know.
Lindsey [00:08:20] Yeah I think the interesting thing too is so many of the words in programming that you hear from C.S. degrees are actually not as scary as I thought they were but a lot of times I always found it very scary to hear about data structures and algorithms and basically object oriented and all these words they always scared me and I hear about the way you just talked about it and I’m like oh that actually didn’t seem too too bad.
Emma [00:08:46] The question to is do we need computer science principles to be a good developer. And like especially when we get into technical interviews which we won’t necessarily cover today but they test a lot of these algorithmic data structures and run times. And do we need that. And I think my answer to that is yes at a conceptual level like I need to to understand why one algorithm like wire and nested for loops exponentially worse at runtime than you know just to for loops that are placed outside each other on the same lateral plane. So understanding that conceptually is great but asking someone exactly what’s the big Theta or big O runtime of this like do we need that I don’t know what do you think.
Kelly [00:09:28] I would say you know I’m getting close to coming up on 20 years on coding I would completely fail like a whiteboard interview, like a technical interview. I would not be able to do it. So I absolutely think it’s important and in certain situations when you’re having to put yourself in front of an interview room and answer these questions like I absolutely could not do it.
Ali [00:09:48] Yeah I feel really lucky that I do have some computer science knowledge that I did take those couple classes and learn from that context. That being said I think that the stuff that I’ve learned my self that has been a little bit more web dev focused has been stuff that I use more every day whereas that stuff is more important for understanding the context behind it. I think honestly if I had gone Kelly’s route and learned programming from a young age and then took computer science I think it would have been excellent because I would understand the context and all that. But as my first introduction I was like I don’t understand this I don’t understand why you use this. Like C++, I was like oh we have Python, lists are built in. You don’t need to build a linked list. Why would you do that? And that wasn’t explained to me. But if I had more programming experience before that I think that it would have.
Lindsey [00:10:40] Yeah. I always find to that having the why is so important. There are so many things that I’ve learned and it wasn’t until I learned why that they actually clicked in my head like even accessibility stuff I remember. Actually this isn’t an episode about my accessibility stuff but I will say once I started learning about it I literally was just plopped in there like fix it and I had no idea it was about people being able to access content. I was just like I don’t know what these errors mean and why I have to fix them but OK. Once I learned why I think, just circling back, understanding why with what Ali was saying if she had been doing web dev stuff and then understood why it would have probably been really helpful for her.
Emma [00:11:25] Absolutely. So there’s there’s a great book I wanna call up. It’s called Start with Why by Simon Sinek it’s one of my favorites and it talks about having like I think what is it the ethos behind everything. Why do we do the things that we do and I think that’s why we’ve all been so successful is we’ve all had this guiding why behind all of the content that we produce which is you know another episode. But what I lacked was the why behind all of the things that I did. I did them because it was part of my curriculum. And that was the track that I followed right. I. And that’s why I believe that ninety five percent of the stuff that I know today I was self-taught with and I struggled for a long time because I had no why in my degree other than it’s my degree right. I didn’t have a guiding force. Let’s switch maybe a little bit into talking about the concept of like college instructors versus self guided learning right. So the instructors I didn’t really get a chance to pick and choose like the people whose learning style that I clicked with versus when you’re self-taught you get to kind of play around with different tutorials and instructors and even mediums whether you like to read or watch watch tutorials. So what do you think the pros and cons of that is having a dedicated instructor. Maybe to give more guidance versus being able to kind of choose your medium and your instructor but not having the reassurance if you need extra help.
Lindsey [00:12:39] I have a feeling Ali has opinions on this.
Ali [00:12:43] Yeah I have a lot of opinions on this. So fun fact about me. I actually have more formal education experience than I have computer science. So I was an education minor in college and have before I’d dropped one credit early. Anyway that’s another story. So I also taught in a middle school for a little bit student teaching and then taught more formally as a boot camp instructor. And I think the interesting thing is that most college professors don’t have any instructional training. They’re mostly there as researchers and as academics and the teaching comes second to a lot of them. And I just I guess I don’t understand why that’s a thing and why colleges are still doing that. So I think that you can get really lucky and have these incredible instructors at a college level and I had one instructor who was incredible I T.A.-ed for him or assistant taught for him afterwards and it was great but I think a lot of times you see these lecture halls where there are 400 students being taught something and they’re just being spoken at. And that’s not how people learn. And that really bothers me.
Emma [00:13:52] And I think to that point. So I went to a really really small liberal arts college that John Papa actually went to the same one. Funnily enough what was great about that is the classes were small we had maybe 30 students but. And while I did have great professors there was one I remember particular and he taught multiple because it was such a small school. I remember it was in intro to programming I believe. And he first of all we had two exams a midterm and a final. And he said to all of us my exam is so hard that it is open book, open internet, and a majority of you are going to fail it. If you would rather take a 50 percent and not take the exam you’ll probably still do better than if you try. So here you go. And I was sitting there like that is the most demeaning and discouraging comment that you can give a roomful of bright minded kids. Really we were kids and so like that for me was hard being set up for failure just because you don’t know how to instruct. That was very hard for me.
Kelly [00:14:47] I’ve never really understood that. Like you know not. I went to college for a really long time. I’ve two master’s degrees as well but whenever I’d have a professor who I do it I like your why are you setting the students up for failure. Don’t you want to see us succeed?
Ali [00:15:01] Yeah it’s unreal especially weed out classes where they’re trying to get people to drop the major because they don’t have enough room for everybody or something like that. Then come on you’re just setting up the people who had programming in high school to succeed in this program. And those are people from wealthy suburban high schools. Those are the people who have that right? And so you’re completely weeding people out based off of their prior knowledge not based off of how well they’re they’re doing in your class. And that’s not fair.
Emma [00:15:30] Yeah I will say no hard feelings to my college. I loved my college Sienna. I thought it was a great school and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today but that being said this one professor additionally would also get up in front of us and tell us his favorite students and I’m sitting here thinking this is so. He was a very nice person but he was one of those people who didn’t necessarily have the social skills that it took to guide a young minded people and that really hindered me because when I got to my first job I was so overwhelmed I cried for probably the first year and so I would say when you have great professors and you’re in a setting that is conducive to absorbing information it’s great. And when you don’t like you’re a little bit lost but not only that let’s talk price because this is expensive and I think we can all agree. You definitely do not need a CS degree to be successful and I think we’re all living proof of that but I can tell you right now I paid well over a hundred thousand dollars for four years of undergraduate school. Like it was probably between one hundred twenty to one hundred sixty thousand. Now that was a small private school in Albany New York. So it was expensive but the benefit is not a benefit. You don’t need your masters degree which is great. I mean it can help you salary wise but you don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to get a dev job. But when we’re talking in comparison to boot camps you know degrees are a lot more expensive.
Ali [00:16:55] And the time to you have to think of the opportunity cost of four years vs. a couple of months that’s four years of work experience that you’re kind of missing.
Lindsey [00:17:04] Even when I started teaching myself to code I was only teaching myself for maybe 18 months. So even then you think about the opportunity cost. It still took less time and obviously less money. Definitely a good point there I didn’t even really think about the opportunity cost either.
Kelly [00:17:22] I can definitely say that I was a very busy middle schooler so I had limited time to teach myself to code.
Lindsey [00:17:31] Yeah no. Very interesting. And the funny thing is I think the thing is is I can see your faces and nobody else can. And I know they always say this on podcasts but when Emma said that they were doing her picking favorite it’s my jaw was just like…what?
Emma [00:17:45] Yeah I see. I mean the fact that I’m still like salty about it to this day is kind of like what the heck.
Lindsey [00:17:50] Oh, I’d still be salty.
Kelly [00:19:11] I think in relation to the amount of time it takes to complete a degree think about you know by the time you start your you know your computer science classes let’s say you have courses to get out of the way. Let’s say you start your computer science classes your sophomore year. By the time you reach your senior year we’re all using new technologies out in the wild and it’s really really difficult to keep up with you know what everyone’s actually using in real life situations. And you’re always gonna… I mean it’s actually a good lesson to learn when you’re learning how to code is that you’re always going to feel like you’re a little bit behind and that is totally fine because I mean we’ve coded our own site in react and Gatsby and I have only built one site using Gatsby before and it’s a lot of just like jumping into the deep end and trying to figure it out as you go. But my whole point is that this kind of carries around back to getting a computer science degree on the learning on the front end side there’s only so much they can teach you just because every single environment and every single tech stack is going to be slightly different depending on where you go and it becomes difficult you have to somehow be able to teach everything by the time you’re ready when you leave when you graduate.
Ali [00:20:18] I think the best thing that instructors can do more generally is teach you how to teach yourself rather than teach you any one thing in particular. So I think that the classes where you learn a bunch of stuff that do help with that but also learning one thing in depth means that it’s easier to move just learning something else whereas you if you’re just learning the bare basics of a million things then you’re not really learning much that can actually apply to the job or to writing your own project. And so I think that that’s another place that good instructor.
Emma [00:20:52] Yeah. And I think I think ultimately when we get down to it see a CS degree gave me two things. One it give me problem solving skills and two it gave me something nice to put on my resume. And as shallow as that sounds it’s true. Right. Why do we do these things so we can get a job. I do think that that unfortunately when you look at the totality of this industry I think it does put you a little bit up like it puts you higher up in the ranks initially right. Because when these recruiters are looking at your resume or what not they give you what 15 seconds look over. And so I think that helps a little bit. I would love to challenge that though because some of the best developers I know either don’t have a degree at all or definitely not in CS.
Kelly [00:21:30] Is it me? Am I the best developer you know it’s not even a question you’re in a magazine show.
Lindsey [00:21:38] Well in any case. let’s let’s switch gears and let’s talk about boot camps.
Ali [00:21:44] So I was not a boot camp grad but I taught at one for a long time and I guess teach but not full time so I think are really really awesome and a lot of ways to because they allow you to learn job applicable skills in a very short timeframe so you can learn the basics that you will need in order to do a web developer job. Usually these people funnel into front end jobs but you could go anywhere in the stack and. Usually twelve weeks maybe six months if it’s a different type of boot camp and they have all sorts of different formats. They have self paced ones where you’re learning online and completed your own piece. There are online ones that are instructor led in a way that they are more peace where you have deadlines versus stuff and there’s a track that you’re following. Then there’s also in-person ones. And so that’s where I have the most experience and those are really great because you’re in a classroom with an instructor more similar to a high school or college class and you have a group of other people that are learning along with you so you can really support each other. That’s one of my favorite parts about boot camps. So have you all worked with a lot of boot camp grads I’ve worked with a few.
Lindsey [00:23:07] I have varying opinions. I think for me the boot camp grads that I’ve worked with are either amazing or annoy me in all honesty. I know I should probably be a little bit more sensitive but the ones that are great are really freaking amazing.
Kelly [00:23:27] They’re so cool. They’re really eager to learn there.
Lindsey [00:23:31] They have the background knowledge that I would expect but they’re also very ripe and fresh for the learning and they’re they’ve got the best of both worlds where they have some knowledge but they’re also super eager and then I have people who I have encountered who are just who just wanted to go into the boot camp to get a good job and don’t want to learn anything else. And they’ll be like I’ve had people talk down to me and act like I don’t know what I’m talking about. And I remember one specific issue was in CSS and he had five different classes chained together and it made it really hard to overwrite things and just like you only need one or two CSS classes that are chained together to for specificity. And he told me there was no way it was possible to do it the way I was suggesting. And then I created PR with what I was suggesting and it was really frustrating because it took a lot of my time as it because I was a team leader at the time. Actually you know this is literally the only person that I’ve had this issue with so maybe I shouldn’t generalize it see they’re awesome or that one person.
Emma [00:24:40] Well let me make a quick comment to your to your point. It is if you are in this industry to gain a paycheck like you can do it but like you really should love it. Right. Like the the most successful people that I’ve seen love what they do and they’re really good at it. If you’re here to collect a paycheck you can do it. You can make good money in tech but at the end of the day it’s going to you’re not going to enjoy what you do. And this goes for anything in life but like enjoy what you do. Life’s too short. Now that I have let me get off my soapbox I’d have a couple of questions. So let me just ask them both together and we can iterate on it. One what types of boot camps are out there so like a General Assembly is maybe one so if we can name a couple popular ones that be cool and then also who’s a good candidate for boot camp so would it be someone who’s fresh out of high school as someone who’s been in the industry but also needs to like maybe up there they’re coding games so let’s talk about those.
Lindsey [00:25:31] So I have a few opinions on that. I think it also comes down to learning style. I’m very much a self directed learning type of person because I just get very anxious in classroom settings. But I’m also very highly motivated. Some people need the structure in order to really show up and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve never needed that structure personally and the structure actually stresses me out more than it helps me. But some people are totally the opposite. They’re like I need that structure I need that structure I need that accountability. And that’s great just doesn’t work for people like me.
Ali [00:26:10] Yeah. So I can keep going off of that. I think that that’s one of the best parts of it. The other thing is that if you’re doing self directed learning there’s nobody there that’s really checking your work rate so you could be learning something totally incorrectly and never have somebody to reel you back in. And so that’s one of the really great parts of having a boot camp is that somebody is there who’s grading your assignments who’s looking stuff over that you have for Office Hours that if you have a really hard bug you can go ask them whereas you don’t really have that as much when you’re doing self teaching. As far as different boot camps that are out there at least in the markets that I am most educated on I think that General Assembly and the Flatiron School are two big ones. And then online there’s Lambda school which is kind of another one that’s taking off. But there are different ones in different areas and you all may have different ones there. And then as far as who is a great fit for a boot camp one that I see the most often is career changers. So somebody who has had a successful career who has done something for a while but wants to change. Wants something new for some sort of reason whether it’s that thing you have started self teaching themselves code and really really like it or they’re looking for greater opportunity in their lives which can be a great motivator for people too. So that’s the vast majority. There are the people that just got of high school that are trying to do this instead of college. Those are pretty rare. And then there are also another category of people who are not actually looking to career change. They’re just there to learn another skill whether that’s to manage better because they manage developers or just because they like learning things. So definitely a wide range of bootcamp students of all different ages and experience levels. My biggest piece of advice before you join a boot camp is to self teach for at least a little bit first aid so that you know that you at least somewhat enjoy writing code. You don’t have to be in love with it you don’t have to think it’s magic but you can’t hate doing it and think that it’s this awful thing and then watch a career change in order to do it full time. You won’t have fun. Then another awesome thing about it is that boot camps really move crazy fast. That’s just the way that boot camps work. You’re in a limited time frame. Everybody has to be learning together. That’s just the way it works. So if you have the knowledge coming in in the first week or two can go a little bit slower for you because you know these things coming in that’s a huge asset to you and you’ll feel more comfortable. So I highly recommend doing that even if you’re going to do a boot camp to self teach for a little bit first.
Kelly [00:28:51] That’s really good advice.
Emma [00:28:52] A couple quick questions sorry. Kelly do you want to respond directly to that or can I interject a couple questions.
Kelly [00:28:59] You can interject just just two questions.
Emma [00:29:06] Two so one is there anyone who shouldn’t attend a boot camp and my initial reaction to this is yeah I’m going to ask a question and answer it is fine. My initial gut reaction to this is like if you are not maybe advanced or you’re not a beginner level I maybe wouldn’t recommend to boot camp. Ali I would love to hear your take on that. And quickly the second judge you mentioned so I don’t forget is how much can someone expect to pay for a boot camp.
Ali [00:29:31] Yes so great questions both of them. So the first one I actually would disagree with that. So I’ve had students who were actually employed as software engineers with computer science degrees who felt like they were in over their head at work and did a boot camp in order to feel more confident. And it did wonders for them. They completely transformed their career with it. So that’s totally an edge case and definitely not your average student whatsoever. But I think that that can actually work and especially for computer science students who maybe didn’t have the practical experience it can be helpful there. I would agree that if you’re super super advanced and have like a Masters in computer science or something along those lines it probably won’t help you as much as a beginner student. But everybody is different as far as price goes. Most of the in-person ones run around 15000 dollars at least in the bigger cities whereas smaller cities would probably be a little bit less than that just because cost of living and costs of running a business and all that. The other thing is that a lot of them are moving to a payment plan where you only pay once you get a job and you pay back a percentage of your salary. So Lambda school is very well known for this but the other boot camps actually have this in place as well. It’s just one of the payment options instead of the only one.
Kelly [00:30:52] It’s such a great option as well especially for second career people or third or fourth because obviously you have bills to pay. You’re not just fresh out of high school and being able to not have to worry about taking on that immediate burden and be able to comfortably change your career is incredible.
Ali [00:31:10] Totally totally. And it’s less of a gamble to like you have to be making decent money in order to even have to pay any of the money back. And so it’s very much your core idea something to consider.
Kelly [00:31:23] I have one comment to make but then yeah we’ll have to move on since for talking for a long time about this I’m an employer so I have the opportunity to hire people for my team and hire developers and I will say my favorite people are the ones who are either second career or they have work experience and if they did go the boot camp option they worked for a little while before actually coming to the boot camp because boot camps are really great for you know teaching you how to code but you’re going to get a lot more of the actual on the job experience if you worked anywhere previously. Do you agree disagree awesome. I agree yes. Yeah well.
Ali [00:32:06] Another piece of advice is I would really dig into their numbers before joining so make sure that their graduation rate is good so people actually are completing the boot camp once they start it that people are successfully transitioning out of it that they’re getting people employed afterwards. They’re all those numbers should be online for your boot camp. And also if you’re doing one of those payment plans make sure you read the terms of that because some of them if you don’t graduate then the payment terms become different. So make sure that you’re reading those before you some.
Kelly [00:32:38] Wonderful advice. All right. So we can make an entire episode on just self directed learning and we may end up doing that. But now let’s just really quickly touch on the benefits of going to self directed learning route and also some really useful resources for getting started with self driving learning. So I’ll let you guys take it from here.
Lindsey [00:32:58] So Kelly both you and I have done the self directed learning and I’ve been actually using that term instead of self taught a lot more lately because when it comes down to it I think every single person who is a software engineer has to be self-taught to some degree. But I decided to take the trajectory of self directed learning for a multitude of reasons and these will be quote unquote the pros. For me it was money I was making 35k in D.C.
Kelly [00:33:28] Which is a shoebox.
Lindsey [00:33:33] Yeah. Very very not a lot of money. So for me it was that. And it also really that actually is the major pro for me and also the go at your own pace. The go at your own pace is both pro and con though. The con with it is you’re not going to get a job as quickly the pro with it is if you’re like me and you get stressed out by the speed of things then it’s actually a good thing for me I wanted to dip my toes in go at my own pace. You know I don’t do as well in classrooms like I said but it really really helped me to get my own pace and make sure that I was understanding and and even with what Ali said before is even if you do do a bootcamp doing a few self-taught or self directed learning tutorials and whatnot is super critical to make sure you actually know you want to do it because I knew I wanted to do it because I was teaching myself and I was voluntarily waking up at five thirty in the morning before work and teaching myself to code and I did that for 18 months. And then, I think about it now and I’m just trying to give myself a pat on the back and that’s kind of cool, Lindsey, you did that. So but you know some people get overwhelmed with that or life happens. They need something that really structures it so that even if life comes they can have that as their set priority versus you know I’m just learning to code on the side it’s a little bit harder to prioritize that unless you’re super super dedicated to it and motivation is hard. Like quite frankly that’s a big con is getting motivated is a challenging thing and quite frankly I never relied on motivation which is why I think I was really successful in teaching myself because I just literally had it as a habit. But staying motivated especially when you’re like a high on the struggle bus, like I have a lot of challenges, I don’t understand this bug, it can feel very isolating. So getting out to like to meet ups, asking for help, joining communities is way I mean it’s critical wherever you are. But I feel like it’s the most critical when you’re doing a self directed learning trajectory.
Kelly [00:35:52] Agreed. And the other great thing about self directed learning is you can base your projects on whatever interests you the most. And we are all queens of a lot of side projects so let’s each talk about what interests us when it comes to building projects.
Emma [00:36:09] I love the stupid stuff that no one cares about. Sarah Viera who just like builds dumb things. I’m trying to swear so yeah I’m not gonna use the exact phrasing but I’d like the other day like I was I’m obsessed with cats as are most of us I think. Except for Ali with Blair who looks like a cat apparently. And so like I was like surfin’ like how many domains can I buy. Gotta collect them all. And I was like random cat generator that sounds great. And I literally just made a like you press a button and it gives you a new picture of a cat. And like I was like a physical project because I get to use open source API is like I hadn’t really done that like the API thing before because I kind of work on a design team and never needed to interface with APIs but literally like take your interest and like make a stupid project out of it. Right. Like another one is like maybe just mega site that when you click a button it changes the background color looks stupid things that help you learn specific skills I think are gonna go a long way.
Lindsey [00:37:09] Yeah. I love silly projects too and I think something that I’ve known is really helpful for a lot of people is building or replicating an app that you know really well that you use like I am kind of obsessed with financial personal budgeting and that’s mostly because if I don’t keep track of it I will overspend. That’s a different story but I know very much what the rules are for a for that kind of app I know that there’s the total amount of income there are expenses you subtract the expenses you have income groups so it’s like you know the rules and I think that’s why a lot of times games are really popular for side projects building games especially ones that are well played like tic tac toe and hangman and all that stuff because the rules are really clear…So you kind of have a good control to test against.
Ali [00:38:01] Yeah. Going off of that I really like games as well because they’re usually relatively small and they’re also really logic heavy. So building all that logic is gonna be probably more intense than building a recipe app or a To Do list or something along those lines you’re having to think through the logic a little bit more. That being said I think one of the biggest issues with self directed learning in general is getting into the tutorial spiral. So you’re doing one tutorial then the next tutorial than the next tutorial and it’s not clicking perfectly but you’re just keeping reading these tutorials and you’re not building anything. And it just spirals and so I think even when you’re reading those tutorials having some goal in mind of something that you’re trying to build and that you’re trying to accomplish with that is really important. So you’re actually applying your knowledge because if you’re not applying it then it may as well not exist.
Kelly [00:38:54] And that’s how my personal site came about because I really wanted to learn Gatsby and I’m like I can go through random tutorials that exist but that’s not really fun. So that’s how I ended up building my entire my entire website. And you know if you visit it you can see it like a section it’s like buy Kelly coffee because I just wanted to see how the ecommerce component worked and it’s kind of fun because every now and then I end up with like three dollars in my bank account because somebody gave me free coffee.
Emma [00:39:19] Also speaking to that let’s chat about resources. So I have some of my favorites that are paid and then I want to mention a couple of free ones as well so I think I started to learn when I had my internship at IBM. I had to learn python and so I went to Code Academy or Codecademy. I don’t know it was confuses with me I like I feel like there’s an A but I don’t think there is Nelson Mandela Effect as real. So Code Academy is a great one. Free code camp is free …would be weird if it wasn’t. I Really like that one. But of course egghead is great, frontend masters are also amazing. I love educative. I just find out about this because I was taking a systems design course. Highly recommend but there aren’t videos so I had in front and masters have videos if you like those versus educated is just reading and I also of course of Lynda and treehouse those are some great ones. My problem is going real quick. I’m all over the place spiraling through these tutorials. Like I love all of them I couldn’t pick a favorite because like I just you know they’re also different. And I feel like I get different things from all of them. But what that means is I rarely finish a course because I’m like Oh another one on egghead. Oh another one I’m finished masters and I kind of like hop around. So do you have any favorites.
Kelly [00:41:46] This is not going to come as a surprise whatsoever but I love Twitter. Have you heard of it?
Kelly [00:41:57] Twitter is amazing for asking you this huge community of people who are more than happy to help. Barring a few I just want to point out your mistakes ignore them but honestly feel feel like comfortable if you get stuck on something. Take a screenshot of it or you know I guess you could take a picture of your computer screen with your phone and say Hey I’m stuck on this. Ali just shook her head no she disagrees. Anyway. Yeah I mean post about it on Twitter and I guarantee there are going to be people who are more than happy to help guide you towards the right answer. Provide the resources you need to actually solve the problem you find out.
Kelly [00:43:09] Hashtag whatnot is my favorite hashtag.
Emma [00:43:11] What is that even about.
Kelly [00:43:14] You can. You can look it up later.
Lindsey [00:43:16] It’s so codenewbies actually my favorite one.
Kelly [00:43:20] Way to change the topic.
Lindsey [00:43:21] Ha! I was like a awkward joke. Haha no. I love Kelly’s dad jokes. We promise those in Twitter Land.
Kelly [00:43:32] I’m here to deliver whether they’re terrible or whether they’re awesome. No. That’s the beauty of dad jokes.
Emma [00:43:38] You’re the dad of Twitter though.
Ali [00:43:40] I think so. For me with resources I think mine are a little bit different. I don’t learn super well with video content and so I don’t normally go in that direction which I think a lot of people actually do and those tutorials are always super super popular. I personally gravitate towards blog posts and just a collection of blog posts come out. And if something has a great set of documentation then I am so much more likely to learn it because that’s the way that I learn best and trying to build something with it. So I have good documentation help me learn your thing.
Emma [00:44:20] True true I feel like this is a great segway Lindsay you want to take it away.
Lindsey [00:44:26] Sure. So something that we do in Women Who Code DC is every Friday I… unless I’m not there and people take over… But I try really hard to prompt people to share one success or one win that they have every week. Just know it doesn’t even have to be a tech related. It can be personal. It can be ”I actually slept.” you know I I love sharing those wins because I think it really helps us keep us grounded in the industry when there’s always a lot of toxicity. So who wants to go first.
Emma [00:44:59] I’ll go first! OK so I almost feel like I’m humble bragging but you know what I’m going to own it. I’m going to humble brag so I had a goal I had a goal. I’m in a not humble brag. I had a goal this year to speak at one conference and that petrified me. And so in lieu of that I’ve decided to speak at 10 which is the thrilling but also terrifying. So I’m really pumped about it. I’m also hoping that I survive it but I would say yeah that’s a huge win.
Lindsey [00:45:31] Yeah that’s awesome. I love that. How about you Ali.
Ali [00:45:34] Yeah. So I relatively recently hit a million readers of my blog which is a big number. And so I’m excited about that.
Emma [00:45:44] Wait you hit a million subscribers?
Ali [00:45:44] Readers. So people who have like read my blog posts.
Emma [00:45:51] That is cool. .
Kelly [00:45:54] Yeah. A lot of people. I don’t know that many people say.
Lindsey [00:45:59] All right Kelly you want to share yours?
Kelly [00:46:00] Yeah. So I run a small business as I speak about very frequently on Twitter and this past week a friend of mine just told me about a very affordable 401k option where I can finally start offering retirement to my employees and I won’t go bankrupt. I’m super thrilled about this. It’s a guideline 401k or I guess it’s just called guideline. Technically if any of you are in the same boat as me.
Kelly [00:47:00] Next time.
Lindsey [00:47:01] Next time OK I gotta get myself red jumpsuit but so yeah that was a super positive experience going to Stockholm and meeting some of the people at Spotify. So yeah. Super super fun time.
Emma [00:47:14] Awesome. So with that we want to say thank you very much for listening to our first episode ever. Our first episode was not four minutes long y’all. That was our teaser. Don’t worry. We got more great stuff coming down the pipeline in our backlog. So thanks for tuning in. We’re really excited you’re here and we’ll see you next time.
Lindsey [00:47:35] Don’t forget to subscribe.
Ali [00:47:37] And leave a review! I don’t know how these things work.
Emma [00:47:39] I don’t either but thumbs up. Thumbs up all the thumbs. OK. Thank you.