By Jesse Ruiz
In about a year and a half (counting self-teaching), I went from earning around 28k as an adjunct professor of art (plus side jobs) to earning around 70k as a developer.
I will discuss my background and the possibility that you can achieve a similar career change. In general, I highly recommend coding bootcamps to enter the tech industry. But it is a difficult task and it’s not to be entered without adequate preparation and planning.
In this article, I will focus on a bigger picture discussion of why and how I changed careers. I have written other articles that discuss the online courses that I completed before I attended data science bootcamp and a review of the bootcamp I attended. For these articles, please refer to my blog.
In short, the reason I jumped on the bandwagon is because I was financially dependent upon my parents and not earning enough to live independently. In this sense, I am a typical creative millennial. I have a few prestigious (useless?) degrees in art and philosophy. However, a few years after completing my graduate degree, I found myself broke and very lost financially.
I taught fine art as an adjunct professor for a few years but this was sporadic temporary work without any benefits or job security. So while I was teaching and living at home with my mother, I started to research careers, taking personality and strengths tests and creating lists.
The internet told me I would be a good accountant or software engineer. Then I somehow discovered data science and after reading about the field in depth, I knew it would be good for my personality and strengths. So my first piece of advice is to know your strengths, weaknesses, personality traits and how they would best suit a potential career.
Now that I knew what I wanted to do, I needed to tackle how? I thought about going back to school to get another Bachelors or Masters degree. But then I learned about bootcamps and I was convinced that this was my best option since they are faster than traditional schooling. My second piece of advice is to consider all your options for educating yourself. Bootcamps are the quickest way into a job.
The decline of the traditional education system should not be understated. During my higher education, while I was very well taken care of because of my privilege, I was not trained nor guided to any specific career. My parents were supporting me financially and although they wanted me to become a lawyer, they supported my decision to pursue fine arts as a profession.
My higher education taught me resourcefulness, great learning habits, adversity and hard work. I did not take any internships. I did work study jobs and aspired to do creative and intellectual things as you do in prestigious institutes of learning. But frankly I was very depressed and struggled through most of undergrad. In the end, I learned more about myself than about career and the real world.
So my belief in bootcamps stems from an appreciation of their efficacy but also I acknowledge the purpose and strengths of traditional higher education. Bootcamps are specifically designed for placing students into jobs whereas higher education advances personal development and intellect (for most).
Getting back to my point, I was enabled to find a job in the data science field in such a short period of time because of the bootcamp I attended and because of the self-teaching I did beforehand. I doubt that I would have been able to be so successful in the bootcamp if I had not gone through undergrad/grad school and self-teaching. My strengths in math and logic helped me get through the dense statistics and machine learning algorithms.
The biggest challenge of bootcamp is the speed and intensity of the curriculum and the tenuous job-hunting period after graduating. No one tells you that the job hunt is the hardest part because it’s a psychological battle that creates self-doubt, competitiveness and uncertainty. My third piece of advice, if you attend a bootcamp, is to make sure you find one that has a great career advising team that will guide you through the entire process.
In the end, bootcamps were created because of the high demand for skilled workers and the training you receive is highly valued. So if you are thinking about attending one, please consider it seriously and find people who have gone through it to discuss your questions.
I am hopeful that this article will be helpful for those of you who are actively searching to advance or start your careers in the tech world. If you have any questions, please reach out!