Yesterday, I attended the Dev Bootcamp Hiring Day for the class of Summer 2012. I was incredibly inspired by the people I met there.
I really enjoy my career. I'm always trying to sell the lifestyle to my friends that are either already developers or just looking at a career change in general. With this economy, the ability to grab a 6 figure salary with kick-ass perks is absolutely incredible. Also, engineering is naturally satisfying and fun.
The way to get into the industry is seriously backwards though. Up until very recently, it basically required a Computer Science degree from a university. These degrees are a very difficult degree to attain, accessible only by those that get into computing at a young age.
I have a CS degree myself. I remember my very first day of CS160 at Oregon State in 2004. There was probably ~300 people in the that room. After the first day, only about 200 people remained. After the first week: 150. At the end of the term there were less than 100 that had actually finished the full 10 weeks.
I would not be surprised if there isn't a major more switched out of at Oregon State than Computer Science. It's really tough to stick it out if you're not deeply in love with core CS fundamentals.
For me, classes like algorithms and compilers were really hard because I just didn't care. Luckily, I had great friends that pushed me along. I also got involved in startups during my last couple years which drove me to power through and get the degree out of the way.
I am interested in building products, not pointless optimization. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. There is a whole market of engineers out there with a similar mindset. They're interested in hacking products together, but not in getting an expensive 4-year degree only partially related to what they want to do.
Enter Dev Bootcamp
I heard of Dev Bootcamp a few months ago when TechCrunch ran the article Startups Court Dev Bootcamp’s Ruby Grads: 88% Have Offers At Average Of $79K. This was a huge story to me. I was really happy to see something like that pop up.
They teach exactly what you need to know for a career in modern web development. Most of the program isn't even touched upon in a university. They teach:
- Rails development - a truly modern framework with very portable knowledge.
- Test driven development - the best way to code, and something I wish I had more in my core than I do.
- Agile methodologies - how most companies operate.
- Git - the best source control solution as it's better than any other with collaboration, code reviewing and working on multiple features at once.
- Soft skills - interviewing, pair-programming, code reviews.
I attended the event on behalf of my company in order to see if we might want to bring any of the guys in. I'll admit that I'm generally see a more optimistic view of people in interviews, and they were short ~5 minute conversations. Still, I was blown away by pretty much every student. I totally would have brought each of them in for a full interview.
I was told that they only spent a bit of time on the soft skills portion, but I am pretty sure they told each and every one of them how to interview for Jeff Dickey.
The full-stack mindset
I asked most students what part of the stack they wanted to work on. (front-end, back-end, ops, etc). Literally every student answered in a similar way. They wanted to work on the full stack. They wanted to learn as much as they could about general development and be able to work at a company willing to facilitate that.
That's absolutely the best answer to that question, but the answer I rarely get.
Willingness to branch out to unfamiliar territory
Engineers have a tendency to vote for the tools they know best. These students have this early direction of wanting to investigate as much as they can will take them far. It was very refreshing to see.
Excitement for hacking
They all came from vastly different backgrounds as well. One was 19, a couple came from law backgrounds, another biotech, they were all over the map. However, their level of enthusiasm for building applications and learning tech was very similar.
I'm convinced that excitement doesn't come from a CS degree. There are people all over the place that want to build cool shit.
I absolutely loved it
I was incredibly inspired after the event. The only thing I'm disappointed about is that this isn't everywhere. There are certainly other groups like Railsbridge and Code School that are also doing great things for our community, but I want to see more!
I don't think the traditional 4-year computer science path is a only way to get into this industry (or even a good one). Computer Science is only related to software engineering.