This year, more than 20,000 people will graduate from coding boot camps in North America alone. These boot camps can cost anywhere between $10k-$20k and last from 8-14 weeks. While there are part-time offerings, the overwhelming majority of graduates come from full-time programs, in which they spend 10-12 hours per day, at least 5 days per week, during the time they are in the program. What’s been the response from the marketplace to these graduates? A report from Indeed showed that 80% of US tech managers said they hired a boot camp graduate, and of those 80%, 99.8% said they would do so again. Let’s take a deeper look at why smart companies are hiring these boot camp grads.
Hiring managers will concede that there seems to be almost a limitless demand for programmers, not just for tech and startup businesses, but for the economy as a whole. As the world gets more technologically savvy (and dependent) all companies will need technical talent to help their businesses maintain and grow. Computer science graduates are slow in coming (it’s a 4 year process) and even if they were all to instantly graduate tomorrow, they would still be insufficient in number to match the need of the marketplace.
Furthermore, because there’s a paucity of CS graduates, they understandably have stronger negotiating power and are often chasing jobs at the most competitive companies and might not consider great opportunities at smaller firms or startups, the latter most notably because of the risk that the startup might fail and their student loan payments will still be due.
While it’s true “needs must,” what are the general qualities of boot camp graduates that don’t just make them warm bodies to put into a coding assembly line, but potential long-term members of your team?
- Risk-tolerant. These people dropped everything in their lives to go to a boot camp for weeks on end in which they studied something they most likely had not had a previous background in. They aren’t just people who talk about changing their lives. They’ve already started to. This also means that you can ask them to do things that could “scare” an average new hire.
- Hungry. There’s no misconception among boot camp graduates that over the course of a few weeks they’ve become equivalent to 4-year CS grads. They know they aren’t. But that means they have a positive chip on their shoulder: one that leads them to want to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can.
- Fewer bad habits. These candidates have had instructors spending many hours with them every day over weeks and weeks, and who often prevented bad habits from forming by repetition of fundamentals.
- Fresh with new languages. Boot camp graduates haven’t had to self-learn the newest languages on the side while in their current coding jobs, they’ve had the “luxury” of learning full-time immersed in the language for weeks.
Two things to keep in mind
In the same Indeed study it was noted that 98% of those hiring managers would like to see more accreditation and regulation in the boot camp industry. While this is understandable, there’s no legal mandate to make this a reality in the coming weeks and months, so do your research into the academies/schools that you are considering hiring from and compare notes with colleagues. Make sure to speak to all involved in the process, from the instructors, to recent graduates, to those who were hired out of boot camp and have been in a position for longer than 6 months. This intelligence will help you fill in where accreditation and regulation might normally assist.
More importantly, keep in mind that the number one way to ensure a successful hire from boot camp is to provide him/her with mentorship. These new graduates need the voices of reason and experience to guide them not just through technical tricks and hurdles, but to make sure they also culturally acclimatize to your firm. Make sure that everyone is on the same page about the benefits of this mentorship so that your experienced staff don’t simply see this as “babysitting the kids” but really and truly “forming the next generation.” They’ll also be able to give you a back channel assessment of technical competency through the time they spend with these new hires.
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Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.