Barriers to getting a job after a coding bootcamp

The idea of a “bootcamp” style approach to learning web development from scratch and launching your new career as a programmer, is getting to be a more familiar one. It’s not how we’ve traditionally approached education after high school, but we know now that a lot of people weren’t getting much out of the traditional approach anyway. While university works out for some people, others leave with a big student loan, a lack of market-ready skills, and little prospect of getting a job in the field they studied.

A bootcamp, on the other hand, is an immersive, hands-on learning experience. Everything in the curriculum is a skill or a tool the tech industry needs. At Enspiral Dev Academy, the first nine weeks of the programme can be studied remotely from anywhere, alongside your job if need be. The second nine weeks is a super-intensive burst of study at either our Auckland or Wellington campuses. The cohorts are small, the teachers are available all the time, and you’ll graduate with the skills to work as a junior web developer, in an industry that constantly needs new talent.

It is an outlay of money up front; check out this post in which one former student does the maths on whether that’s worthwhile. A bootcamp is fast and inexpensive compared to a degree, and aims to prepare you for work. Bootcamps generally pride themselves on their employment rates to justify the cost. At Dev Academy, employment rates are measured four months after graduation. Of all students who graduated more than 4 months ago, 86% have jobs as developers. This includes people working as web, game, app and mobile developers.

So it all sounds impressive — but what about that 14% who don’t have jobs?

One of Dev Academy’s founders, Rohan Wakefield, says of that figure, people generally fall into three categories.

1. The person who stops coding the day they graduate

This makes up over half of the 22% of people who aren’t working as developers four months after graduation.

“People who don’t code after they graduate are sending a really strong piece of communication to a potential employer,” says Rohan. “Employers think you’re not that interested in tech. You’ve got to love coding; you’ve got to want to do it every day, even if it takes you a few months to get a job.

“A bootcamp is a relatively short period of time, so one of the things employers are looking for is how much you’re growing, evolving and learning beyond that. Especially if you’re transitioning from a previous career into programming; employers want to see you love code and that your learning is ongoing, that you’re really committed to the transition.”

How can employers tell if you’re still in love with code, a month or two after graduation? Rohan says it’s obvious. “They can tell because most people have repositories of code in GitHub or BitBucket, or portfolios of projects they’re working on,” he says. “We’re always looking to see what each other is doing.”

One student landed her dream role a year after graduating, something Rohan credits to her consistent commitment to coding regularly, even while she was also taking contract jobs, working in fast food, and caring for her family.

2. The person who doesn’t love coding enough to do it full-time

Around 4% of our graduates decide coding is just not for them. This happens a lot at uni as well, though it’s a bit more demoralising when you’ve spent four years on a qualification.
“A few of our students will find they like tech, but don’t love coding enough to do it full-time” says Rohan. “That doesn’t mean they didn’t get a job. They might end up in project management or business management — in tech, or outside it. We don’t count those people in our 83% of employed graduates, even if they’re working in tech in a non-coding role.”

3. The person who finds it really hard to sell themselves

Another 4% of graduates don’t find work quickly after graduation because they find it hard to sell themselves. That doesn’t mean they won’t eventually get a job.

“That’s where Dev Academy and I play a big role,” Rohan says.

“These are clever people who can code well and work well in teams. But they’ve got an obstacle to coming across effectively, be it a reticence about putting themselves forward or saying they’re good at things. They might struggle in interviews due to nerves or social anxiety.”

Rohan keeps working with students to improve their employability as long as they’re keen to keep working with him. “We can’t just hand you a job,” he says, “But we can keep making calls for you, and support you in looking for a job.”

Rohan says he’s seen cases where students have eventually managed to break through challenges such as social anxiety to do well in an interview context and get a job, even if they found it “desperately hard” to interview at first.

“That might mean putting examples of their code upfront in the process when they apply, or it might mean practicing interviews. The world of interviewing and job applications is a false environment that doesn’t always measure your strengths well, but with practice, a lot of people do find work, even if it takes them longer.”

So how do you optimise your chances of finding work?

At Dev Academy, all students participate in a Careers Week after graduation, which teaches a set of skills that will help them approach the job market and helps them understand the environment they’re going into. The week starts off with a big picture of what the tech sector looks like, common assumptions from employers and potential employees, and common fears when looking for jobs.

“People can be scared of interviewing or going to a meet-up, or worried about whether they’re going to be good enough,” says Rohan. “They’re thinking, ‘Will I be able to do it if people put me to the test?’”

Students practice the stuff that’s essential to get right, including interview preparation and interactive practice at answering common questions. They also role play how to behave in interviews, and what to expect.

“We also cover how to promote yourself with what you’ve actually done,” says Rohan. “That includes your portfolio and your Github profile. Being able to help project managers and hiring managers understand the work you’ve done already is really important, as well as being able to explain what you’re interested in and why.”

CV and cover letter writing also forms a core part of the week, especially since bootcamp students are normally transitioning from something else, whether it’s another career or a different course of study.

“We help our students tell the story of their transition from a previous career to a career in tech,” Rohan says. “You need to be able to explain how you’ll apply your skills from a previous career — because that’s one thing that makes our grads really valuable to employers. They know when they hire someone who’s transitioned from a different background that they’ll bring a whole wealth of extra skills and knowledge to the table.”

Dev Academy’s web development programmes are run out of Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand. The preparatory phase is completed part-time from home, followed by an intensive 9 weeks in class.