“Everybody who’s ever used the internet, raise your hand.”
Everyone’s life is touched by technology nowadays and the trend to try programming has reached an all-time high. It makes sense why. The average salary for a computer software engineer was a whopping $95,000 in 2014 (U.S. Money News). But for anyone who has tinkered around with HTML and CSS knows, it’s not so easy to pick up by Googling, and teaching yourself coding only gets you so far.
So when you realize that you’re ready to make a career change and make a commitment towards a more enriching future as a programmer, what options do you have? That is exactly what was going through the head of Brock Meyer, graduate of the coding bootcamp of our partner, Coder Camps. He is now a product manager for P2 Energy Solutions, but he did not start out knowing he wanted to speak the same language as the programmers that were solving the problems of the largest oil and gas software company in the world.
The conversation between Jacob and Brock is paraphrased below, but we recommend you watch the video and hear for yourself. It may be the best 15 minutes of your future coding career, including the YouTube videos you may have been watching on how to reverse strings in Java (and to that we say, good luck)!
As Brock states below. You can only get so far coding solo.
Jacob Mayhew (J): What attracted you to a bootcamp to learn programming [after being self-taught]?
Brock Meyer (B): I got to the end of a project that I was enjoying [working on computer engineering] and I could go back to traditional engineering, but I really wanted to get more professional exposure to [programming]. I was self-taught, so I was thinking that I would do that again. Then I met the instructor and the people that would be around me, motivating me for 3 months. What sold me is that with programming, you don’t know what you don’t know. The book’s not going to tell you that if what you’re doing isn’t working, that there is a way to do it that is 5x faster. I still might do another bootcamp in the future, since my experience was so good.
(J): What was the structure of the bootcamp?
The last three weeks got into a group of four and we built a full application in 3 weeks. It was a fully-designed website that was responsive [on mobile devices]. We got to pick what we did; I have a sister who runs a non-profit who organizes conferences, so we built a site with that user persona in mind. It was fairly basic but it was very good to have on [our] resume.
(J): When you got done with the bootcamp? How did job-hunting go for you?
(B): Well I’ve got two kids at home, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to go out and get a job. I actually ended up going to a conference and talked to some people about how I was a petroleum engineer but that I was interested in software and did this bootcamp and was interested in talking to them about that. In that two days, I got four opportunities to talk to people. Over the next month, I got a few different offers I think it was the 4th offer that was P2 [Energy Solutions], which is where I work now. I’m a product manager now, so I get to do a lot with software in terms of prototyping and getting it up and running. I don’t do as much hard-core development, but I know enough to say “this would be possible” and I know how I could potentially hire for someone that’s way smarter than me [at programming]. I’m like a B- student in programming because I didn’t take it further after the camp but I know how I can find A+ people. The cool thing is that you can choose what you want to do with [the skills]. It’s not that you necessarily have to just be a programmer afterwards.
(J): So there are options afterwards?
(J): So if someone was telling you, ‘I’m thinking about going to a bootcamp’, what are the 1 or 2 things you would say that would be the key to being successful?
(B): Do it in person or don’t do it. Try it online, but when you’re doing it on your own, [if you’re like me, you] would do the fun stuff, get it mostly working till it is 80% done. The last 20% is not as fun [but it is] where you learn a lot because you struggle through the things you couldn’t figure out on your own. In person, you have to do it. That’s advantage of an in-person [bootcamp].
(J): How many hours did you spend programming during the program?
(B): We were told to expect up to 100 hours. I had experience before so that helped a lot. I think I spent about 50-60 hours per week.
(J): What do you see yourself doing with these new skills moving forward?
(B): For me personally, I don’t know if I’m going much, much deeper in programming? But I do want to stay in software. As Marc Andreessen said, “software is eating the world” and I absolutely agree with that.