Lots of folks are moving into development and technical fields these days. I remember that happening during the dot com book, but back then folks just read one of those “Learn Java in 24 Hours” books.
Nowadays there are a profusion of boot camps that help people gain the skills they need to be a developer. I have interacted with a few of these grads and was interested in learning more about their experience. Noel Worden, one of the organizers of Boulder.rb and a blogger, agreed to an interview.
– what was your background before you were a developer?
I got my degree in fine art photography, spent 5 years working in NYC as a Digital Technician in the photo industry, then moved to Colorado and was a cabinetmaker for 3 years.
– how did you land your first job?
I found the posting on the Denver Full Stack meetup whiteboard (https://www.meetup.com/fullstack/)
– what surprised you about the software industry?
How willing everyone is to help. It’s very different in the photo world, [which is] much more competitive, it’s hard to find guidance and mentorship.
– how did you pick your boot camp?
Bloc had one of the longest curriculums I could find in an online program. I figured when push came to shove, having more experience under my belt couldn’t hurt when competing with other junior [developers] looking for that first job. Bloc also has a part-time track, which allowed me to still work [a] full-time job while going to school.
– what is good about the job? What is challenging?
I appreciate the balance of being challenged but knowing I have the full support of any other engineer on the team if I need to reach out for assistance. Canvas United [ed: his current employer] has a lot of projects that I’ve been maintaining lately, and all are running different versions of Rails, which makes for interesting challenges.
– what do you see current boot camp students doing that you’d advise against?
Not getting out and networking while going to school. This industry is all about networking and if you’re hoping to capitalize on the advantages of a good network you have to be building it while still in school.
– why did you want to transition into technology and development?
I wanted/needed a career path where the leaning curve wouldn’t plateau. I’m not a ‘cruise control’ kind of person, as soon as the challenge isn’t there for me anymore I lose interest.
– how can employers help boot camp grads in their first job?
Be ok with answering questions, and be transparent with the employee about the proper channels to ask those questions. Also, be upfront about the fact that it’s ok to fail (assuming that’s the case) a few time before you get to the best solution [ed: if it isn’t ok to fail, find a new job!]. Also also, a healthy balance of low hanging fruit and multi-day problems. Nothing kills my morale faster than ticket after ticket of problems that grind me into the ground.
– should employers have any different expectations of a boot camp grad vs someone who just graduated from college or high school?
I definitely think that it takes a particular type of management style to successfully level up a boot camp grad. If you’ve hired them you must have liked something about them, play to those strengths, but also sprinkle in challenges to help that developer evolve.
[This content has been edited for grammar and clarity.]