Coding bootcamps appear in the news often because of the constant reporting on their successes and failures. We hear of mergers, closures, pivots, and acquisitions as if we are experiencing the equivalent of the browser wars of coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps remain a target of criticisms in the community churning out subpar developers to make money. I hope to dispel these attitudes by highlighting observations from my time as a coding bootcamp instructor and as a developer before and after that time.
There are many, many, many, many, many articles that suggest that the interview system for development is broken (specifically referring to whiteboard interviews). They summarize a consistent message: we cannot expect a person to take a random unknown problem with no tools or support and produce an ideal solution. More so, candidates are often overlooked for mundane and even discriminatory reasons. Our interview system continues that trend despite numerous calls for a change.
Triplebyte posted an article highlighting the differences in bootcamps and college graduates. The article illustrates that bootcamp graduates are on par with college graduates in practical coding and exceed expectations with regards to web systems design. Bootcamp graduates do not perform as well in "deep knowledge" categories such as algorithms and data structures and low-level systems. Ask yourself, "would I rather have someone who understands how to build web sites and services or someone who knows how data structures work on a deep level?" I would believe the answer would be the former, but our interview focuses more on the latter. Triplebyte does do a great job of conducting in an objective matter, and they do provide feedback, so I do recommend checking them out.
Coding bootcamps provide an alternative form of education. The cost of colleges and universities are skyrocketing that coding bootcamps and similar vocational programs are becoming more appealing choice. Many offer diversity-focused scholarships to bring in a unique pool of candidates. Instead of pushing people away because their educational background, we should be embracing recruits as a practical funnel for candidates from underrepresented groups (including people from liberal arts backgrounds that match the company's domain).
Lastly, let's look at the practical skills of a coding bootcamp graduate. At the end of most boot camps, students have completed a couple projects including one capstone-level project on their own. They are asked to present their code on Github for everyone to see. If there is any example of real projects that students work on, these projects would be the real deal. Take a moment to look at the code. That is close to the real code they might write in their job, which makes their portfolio more than a set of classroom assignments or completed tutorials.
My goal is not to convince that every student that graduates are rockstar developers. I want to describe that there are clear benefits from considering boot camp graduates. There are three ideas to consider in looking at coding boot camp graduates:
- Take a look at your interview and identify the end goal of candidates you want to hire. Are you setting up these types of candidates for a successful interview?
- Look at a potential for building a diverse work force, not just in the under representation groups but from different educational backgrounds.
- Take a look at the graduates code on their Github. Compare it to your university graduate counterparts.
In the end, the decision remains yours, but I’d consider alternative options to strengthen your candidate funnel for your company and set clear objective standards on what to see in the interview process at the end.