Comp Sci Grads: What Coding Bootcamp Taught Me That Undergrad Didn’t

By Marie Casabonne • November 30, 2016

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In the early days of the internet, most practicing software engineers were either lifelong self-teachers or computer science degree holders. With the advent of coding bootcamps, the pathways to a career in programming has expanded significantly: Now, anyone who can demonstrate coding aptitude can work in software engineering.  

Traditionally, coding bootcamps have been considered a pathway to a career in programming for people who did not have any formal programming experience. However, at Dev Bootcamp, many of our alumni had already earned an undergraduate degree in computer science when decided to attend coding bootcamp. We caught up with two of our graduates to dig into why they chose to go to bootcamp after earning a C.S. degree and how it enhanced their programming skill set. Here’s what we found.

The key difference between computer science degrees and bootcamps

“Most people are interested in programming because they want to build things. With a computer science undergraduate degree, you spend four years not building things,” says James Robinson, a ‘14 Dev Bootcamp San Francisco graduate. James earned a degree at the University of Sussex in 2006 in computer science and artificial intelligence. “It’s important to understand that a computer science degree is not a programming degree,” he explains. “It’s focused on the theory of computing: things like algorithm complexity and how compilers work, but a computer science degree alone does not teach you what you need to be a programmer.” So, what do computer science grads gain from their bootcamp experiences?

Practical application solidifies your understanding of key concepts

For those interested in hitting the ground running in their first programming job, the practical application of a coding bootcamp brings to life the theory they focused on in their undergrad. Computer science programs are heavy on theory, but generally aren’t heavy on practical application. “With a computer science degree, you have a lot of the tools but you’ve probably never used them in a way that’s applicable,” explains James. “You haven’t necessarily built a wide range of projects that implements those tools in a way that’s relevant to a software engineering job.” Layering the practical experience of coding challenges and building web apps on top of the abstract and theoretical context of a computer science background creates a more well-rounded job applicant, equally versed in the theory and reality of building web apps.

Bootcamps helps you build a relevant, active code portfolio

Aside from putting concept mastery to test, bootcamps give computer science grads a body of work to showcase while interviewing. “While at Dev Bootcamp, I wrote more code in two months than I wrote in four years of undergrad,” says Luis Ybarra, ‘16 Chicago alumnus, who graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in computer engineering. “Before Dev Bootcamp, I was out of practice, and even with my knowledge and experience, it wasn’t enough for technical interviews.” Both James and Luis cited getting caught up in job-relevant coding languages, such as JavaScript and Ruby, as a reason for attending Dev Bootcamp.

 The supportive community of peers amplifies multiple years of learning  

Many computer science graduates list the collaborative learning environment as a key benefit for attending a bootcamp: “I was trying to get caught up with popular languages for two years on my own, and it wasn’t working,” says James. “I learn a lot better when I’m around people with the same motivation.” Additionally, because of their experience, many computer science graduates step into a leadership role within their cohorts. “You don’t really understand something until you can explain it to someone else,” says James. “Dev Bootcamp made me a better teacher and a better learner.”

 Working on group projects simulates real-world dev experience

In the real world of software development, your ability to communicate adeptly and collaborate will be as important  as technical acumen. Through Dev Bootcamp’s interactive challenges, pair programming assignments, and group projects, students replicate workplace dev teams, and learn how to successfully collaborate with others. Luis shares: “Although I came in with more experience than most, I learned so much by working with instructors and cohort-mates, and what they brought to the table in terms of diverse backgrounds and creativity.”

Although both James and Luis nurtured interests in programming from a very young age, Luis, now a software developer for an investment firm in Chicago, never felt bored: “The Dev Bootcamp instructors were really open to the extra questions I had about wanting to go into theory. One of the instructors even put together an informal ‘Phase 4’ for continued learning after we graduated from Dev Bootcamp.” Currently at Wealthfront, an automated financial advising firm, James adds: “Dev Bootcamp gave me more faith in myself. In a short amount of time, you learn so much more than you thought possible.”

Computer science undergraduate degrees and bootcamp educations were once viewed as very separate pathways to a career in software development. However, with an added focus on concrete skills, a coding bootcamp can be deeply valuable to computer science grads: everything from subject-matter refreshes to skill sharpening and team dynamic training, equipping folks to start adding value to companies from day one.

Interested in solidifying your skills and adding practical experience to your computer science acumen? Read more about Dev Bootcamp’s curriculum, or find a campus near you.

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