How to get into DevBootcamp and whether or not you shouldLast updated: March 24, 2013
A lot of people are asking me about my experience at DevBootcamp, advice on how to apply, and how I’m doing since finishing the program. I’m still open to emailing and meeting up if you’re in San Francisco, but I wanted to write down some thoughts also. I also attached my entire application from back in November. That may help you understand what kind of people Shereef is looking for, but most likely it will only be useful as an anecdote, I would not recommend trying to glean anything from it.
Should you do DevBootcamp?
You should apply if you meet the following criteria:
You love technology, computers, machines, programming, problem solving, learning, or feeling vulnerable. Love is a pretty strong word, and I don’t use it lightly. I think you should only do things if you love them, but when the investment is so high, it’s even more important that you really love one of these things. For me, I loved programming enough that I knew I wanted to learn more, but not enough that I could dedicate appropriate amount of time to it. Being in that sweet spot is important, because on one side, if you don’t love it enough, find something else to do, and on the other side, if you love it more than anything else in the world, there are plenty of resources available to learn on your own.
You want a job as a developer. A few great points, all gathered from discussions in email threads or other conversations.
If you want to learn to code so you can start a tech company, I think you’re better off hiring or cofounding with a dedicated developer. If you’re splitting your time thinking about building a product and building a company, you’re doing disservice to both. You can learn to program on the side to help you communicate with the developer, but 10 weeks at DevBootcamp is 10 weeks you could have been building and shipping.
17 out of 20 people from my cohort are employed in some sort of technical capacity. 3 of those 17 are employed as teachers at DevBootcamp. Out of the remaining 3, one started App Academy, a DevBootcamp clone for iOS development, one started Hackstar Academy (A DevBootcamp for women focusing on Python), and one is enrolled in said Hackstar Academy. Although these numbers seem pretty good, it is true that they may not be representative of future cohorts. I have no idea what to expect of the current cohort, just as I had no idea what to expect out of my cohort.
Is DBC worth $12k?
This is the biggest concern. I think if you meet the criteria in the previous question, the cost and the investment should not be relevant. I would support this blanket statement completely, in theory. But in practice, things are not so easy. In November of 2011, I had between $7 and $8k saved up in my bank account. That’s when I applied and was accepted into DevBootcamp. One foolish (but awesome) trip to New York and a 3 months later, I had about $4K left over. I didn’t really have a game plan for payment other than getting a mediocre job to make the $120 monthly installments. I wasn’t too worried, I knew I could teach tennis and make at last that much in a day if I needed to. San Francisco was much more expensive than I anticipated. By the time bootcamp was over, I had about $50 dollars left in the bank. Again, not a big deal in my land because I have a family and parents I can always count on financially.
When I accepted my acceptance to DBC, I had some vague idea that I would have literally no money to pay when the course ended, but that knowledge did not factor into my decision. I took it one step at a time. Fill out the form, hit the submit button, skype interview, book a flight, etc. If I had thought about whether or not I could afford it or if I wanted to give away 8 weeks of my life on one thing, I may never have filled out the form.
Would I apply for DBC now that it’s twice as expensive? Honestly, I'd think twice. Or ten times. I’m really bad at spending money on myself. I’m used to making do with what I have and learning things on my own. The number $12,000 scares me and even knowing how the program has completely changed my mind, it would be very difficult to convince myself to do it again at that price tag. If the course marketed their monthly installment plan a little more though, and made that number more digestable, it might get to the reasoning and logical part of my brain though.
Which program should you apply for?
I got this question only once, but it’s worth mentioning. DevBootcamp or Code Academy or Hacker School or Hungry Academy? Which one is right for me? I applied to both DBC and Code Academy and was accepted into both. I chose DevBootcamp for two reasons: (1) I didn’t want to spend February in Chicago. 4 years of Wisconsin winter were enough for me, and (2) Code Academy folks wouldn’t let me setup a payment plan, they wanted an upfront cash payment. I am generally wary of paying large chunks of money at the same time. Even if it’s cheaper to pay upfront, I prefer to space out payments into small packets. But which one should you choose? I would say that apart from little details like unsuitable dates, etc, it is irrelevant which one you choose. If you’re applying for one of these programs, you’re likely making a big career change and taking a big risk. At this vulnerable stage, it’s more important to make a decision than to make the right decision.
Tips on Applying
I’m attaching my application below. It’s nothing spectacular. I think my best applications have been the ones that I have put the least amount of effort into. They usually turn out to be the most honest and straightforward also. When I notice myself trying to hard to make myself seem appealing, it’s usually a disaster. In the case of DBC, I was half hoping I wouldn’t get accepted, so I wouldn't have to make a huge change in my life. This helped me write a better application, I think.
Name: Mehul Kar
Phone Number: (641) 814-****
Age: Usual response: I turn 35 every year in June. (real age: 22)
Blog: blog.mehulkar.com *(edit: this doesn't exist anymore)
Please tell us about your education and employment history:
I have a degree in Finance (summa cum laude) from UW-Whitewater. I don’t really enjoy the art of multiplying money though, I think it creates more problems than it solves. My first startup, FridgeWaves, rented appliances to University students and then used the money to make international microloans. Now I’m involved with starting a consulting company and building a community of South Asian students (CollegeDesis.com). My main source of income in the past few years while I was in school was from teaching tennis at a country club and coaching high school tennis teams.
Are you currently: Unemployed but not looking
Why are you applying to Dev Bootcamp?
I’m applying to Dev Bootcamp because I want to learn how to code awesome things. I am teaching myself as much as I can over the internet, but I need a better learning environment. My couch has a dent in it the shape of my behind. Learning alone is really fun, but learning in a place where finding people to help at 3 am isn’t a hurdle is even better.
Also, I’d like to learn more about the principles and theory behind programming rather than just programming and I think I will only get that in an environment with people who know what they are doing.
What is your background with computers/technology/programming?
I taught myself Visual Basic when was 13ish and programmed an mp3 player software. There was a leprechaun on UI and 3 musical notes appeared out of his head on a timer when you played music. I personalized it and naively gave it as a christmas present to some friends who had no appreciation for it… Real Player was big back then.
Since then I’ve taught myself HTML and CSS. I also play around with Wordpress themes a lot so I can read and tinker with a few WP-specific PHP functions.
I can name a lot of other languages as well, but can’t code in them.
The ideal candidate is someone who loves to tinker, and doesn’t easily give up. Can you tell us a story that exemplifies these qualities in you?
Programming specific: I got into HTML/CSS when somehow I got a Webmaster position for a University organization. I knew HTML but no CSS then. My predecessor showed me how to use an FTP client and edit the website and warned me not to mess with the stylesheet. I obviously messed with the stylesheet and the website brokedown. I spent the next 4-8 hours tinkering with the code trying to figure out what I had done. Literally looking at and applying each line/style individually. I fixed it eventually. A year or so later I did the exact same thing with a Wordpress theme. I’ve probably read the entire Codex multiple times.
Non-programming example: I believe in iterative processes and crowdsourcing. Recently, I spend approximately 72 hours designing a T-shirt for CollegeDesis. I started with a blank template and wrote the name of the company on it in Arial. 50+ versions later (uploading each version to a private album on Facebook later), I finished with this: http://bit.ly/desiswag. About 10 versions through, I wanted to give the job to a real designer, but I figured doing it myself was more productive than waiting for someone else.
What’s one thing you like about our website, and one thing we can do better?
I love how the highlighted form element changes it’s background color. Great design. I don’t love the bold heading font. It makes me squint. I’m also pretty sure this is a Wufoo form, which means that whoever made this website decided not to reinvent the wheel and focus their energies on more important things. That’s the kind of people I want to learn from. (I’m actually certain this is a Wufoo form because I saw it in the stylesheet.) I don’t love how this question asks for only one thing.
Please tell us something surprising or amusing that you have discovered
The first letters of 5 consecutive months of the year spell JASON.
This blows my mind every time I think about it.
Will you be looking for a job as a Rails Developer in the SF Bay Area after graduation?
If you don’t get a job through us, or don’t want to, how will you be paying your tuition?
$7200 over five years ($120/month)
Do you live in the San Francisco Bay Area
No, but I will be moving there for the duration of bootcamp
How did you hear about us?
Hacker News post accessed via the Hacker Newsletter
Anything else you would like us to know?
I’m a PC person with an iPhone.