The Why and How on Dev Bootcamp

If you didn’t already see the post on Intagram announcing it – I was accepted in the Dev Bootcamp 19-week web developer education program this week!

For months I’ve been talking about my efforts to get into a coding bootcamp in the San Francisco Bay Area called Hackbright (*see below for a list of blog posts related to my bootcamp application process). I applied in February of 2015, was declined, and submitted another application in May. While I waited a very long two months to hear back from them, I signed up for a prep course from a different bootcamp program called Hack Reactor. I enjoyed the Hack Reactor prep experience, and I started to wonder if Hackbright might not be the best fit for me.

Currently there are hundreds of bootcamp programs in the Bay Area, with new ones popping up all the time. I wanted to keep things simple, and I really liked the idea of a program geared specifically toward women because I think it’s important to have supportive and safe environments for women to train in as they prepare to enter the often-hostile world of tech. I talked to several Hackbright alumna who were very happy with their bootcamp choice, but the amount of time it was taking to get to my application bothered me, and I talked to several people who urged me to reconsider an option that, in their opinion, would lead me to an internship but might not lead me to the sort of full-time work I would need to recoup my costs as quickly as I’m hoping.

San Francisco Abstraction

Canon AE-1, Fuji Superia 800s

The more I talked to the alumni and instructors from Hack Reactor, the more it sounded like something I wanted to go for. It’s somewhat known as “The Harvard” of the bootcamp programs and the admissions interview is very difficult, making their students some of the elite out there in the race to redefine the software engineering profession. I knew it would be an incredible commitment, with six days/week of in-person instruction instead of the usual five, but it felt like it would set me up for career options I might not have otherwise. Just as I was about to make my move and commit to the application I asked one more alum who responded to my query about what makes the program special with “You’re going to feel like you’re the least intelligent person there, and everyone status until almost-midnight every night.” I want to be challenged, yes, but that’s not the environment and mindset I’m looking for as a mother of two young children living an hour train-ride south of the city. I realized if I attended Hack Reactor I would never see my family. I would barely have time to sleep!

On Thursday morning, July 30th, I had my second interview with the Hackbright program. I thought it went pretty well, though there were some technical problems with the video/internet at the end and I was left wondering what the next steps were. After that interview I showered and went up to the city for a lunch with a friend of TH who is currently attending a program called Dev Bootcamp. I initially had ruled out Dev Bootcamp as an option (even though it comes up frequently on best-of lists for coding bootcamps in the Bay Area) because it is 18-weeks long with the first half of the program done remotely before the in-person learning section at the end. I didn’t want to spend nine more weeks by myself struggling through code, but my lunch date told me that all of the remote programming is done via pair programming and that I might even be able to set up in-person time with people in the SF area. She gave me a tour of their space and talked about the ways they integrate emotional intelligence and mindfulness practices like yoga into the curriculum. It felt like a program that cared about providing a meaningful growth experience for developers on top of teaching them what they need to know in order to succeed in the current world of software engineering. Also very important to me was the ability to repeat portions of the program if necessary. This gives me the cushion I need to feel like my family can still have their needs met if something arises, because I’ll have a chance to catch back up and fall behind. I, of course, don’t want to be doing this any longer than necessary and don’t plan to any repeating, but it’s nice to have it as an option on the table.

I left that lunch convinced I had found the right program for me. I filled out an application, looked over the interview times, and selected an 8:15am CST slot, a little over 12-hours from the time I submitted the application. By the time I realized I had just signed up for a 6:15am PST interview I felt committed and decided I was going to go through with it no matter what. The interview prep materials asked me to work through four sections of Ruby on Codecademy and watch a video on emotional intelligence, and I knew from reading several blog posts about the interview that there would be a logic question as well. I covertly watched the video toward the end of my evening coding class, TH picked me up from the Bart station and ran through some logic questions with me (reminding me that what matters is verbally walking through my process, not necessarily solving the puzzle), and I worked through two sections of Ruby before I gave in and decided that I could get by with the Javascript I had learned in my prep course.

My eyes popped open before my alarm went off the next morning and I scrolled through Instagram on my phone to try to quell my nerves a bit. I had just enough time to make myself a cup of coffee before the 6:15am call time. My interviewer was a recent graduate of the Dev Bootcamp program, somewhere around late-twenties in age, very friendly and easy to talk to. We covered any questions I had about the program, why I thought Dev Bootcamp was a good place for me, and then it was time for the logic puzzle and coding challenge. The logic puzzle was hard for me, but I kept focusing on my need to not get frustrated or sound like I was giving up. The important part was showing that I have resilience and will keep digging when I come up against a problem. He called time on my attempt and said we needed to move on in order to get to the coding problem, but made a point to say that he thought I had done a good job. I really appreciated the way that settled my nerves a bit before we moved into the section where I knew it would shortly become very obvious that I have no idea how to write anything in Ruby. I got through this portion by reflecting back “Well, if we were doing this in Javascript” for just about every question he asked, and he seemed satisfied with my ability to read through a few lines of code and explain what was happening and why it happened. If you were judging my performance on the coding challenge based on my knowledge of Ruby then you would determine that I bombed it spectacularly, but I felt there was still hope because I knew that what’s important to them is the way I think and approach problems, not how much I already know.

The last thing I asked during the interview was what happened next. I had mistakenly thought that there would be a second interview, and was a little nervous when he said this was the only one. That was my one chance??? After my Hackbright response times I was anticipating waiting a week to hear back, but he told me I would have an answer that same day. Four hours after I signed off I saw an email with the subject line “Congratulations!”, something so unexpected that I initially thought it was an email congratulating me for attending and completing the interview. I stood in my kitchen with the chicken gravy burning on the stove and read the email three times over to make sure that they were really offering me a spot, and not just offering me the opportunity to do more application stuff. I called That Husband and cried, feeling overwhelmed by his mutual excitement and the myriad of ways he has supported me thus far (and because I knew he would be right there with me through the rest of the (difficult) process as well).

I signed some agreements, paid a hefty deposit, and was able to secure a spot in the cohort that begins in-person coursework on October 19th 2015. There’s a lot of childcare and housework outsourcing arrangements that will have to be made between now and then, but for now… I celebrate! I started this process at the beginning of January 2015, and now, on the last day of July, I finally get to move on to the next step. Hopefully all of my time on the Caltrain back-and-forth between classes will give me some opportunities to keep you updated throughout the process. It would make me really happy to hear that I convinced other women to give coding a try as well!

*Applying for Big Changes in 2015, Hackbright Update #1, Hackbright Update #2, Why Coding?, What is Coding (and what I like about it)

6 thoughts on “The Why and How on Dev Bootcamp

  1. Congratulations! My husband is in the same program and just finished up his first week onsite. He struggled a bit with some of the offsite work, but is really loving this phase.

  2. Following your journey so far has (almost) made me want to give coding a try, but where we live right now there are not any programs at all, and definitely no bootcamp type ones for women 🙁
    I’m excited to see how your program goes though 🙂

  3. Congrats! I graduated from DBC NY last December. I learned a lot by watching their videos of past lectures. I can’t absorb every concept in every lecture. Brain gets saturated.

  4. I am so proud of you, Jenna! I got verklempt reading your post! Best of luck and you definitely inspired me to explore the coding world 🙂

  5. What an exciting time in your life! Congratulations! It seems like you’re spending your late 20s / early 30s doing the explorations that most people get in their early 20s. I’m so glad that you’re getting that opportunity. It costs more to do this for yourself at this stage in your life, but you are much more likely to make choices that fit you than somebody that is early 20s with very little adult life experience going through the same exploration process. Good luck, and enjoy!

  6. Congrats, Jenna! I run the career team at Dev Bootcamp and personally love when we have moms in the program. Look forward to reading about your journey as you work your way through the program!

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