“Learn to Program” and the Challenging Promises of a Tech Boot Camp

At first glance, the idea of ​​a tech boot camp sounds pretty sweet. You spend a few months learning coding, web development, user experience design or whatever, and voila, welcome to your “for the futurecareer. Some boot camps only make you pay after you get that shiny new six-figure tech job that they say you’re sure to get. They have all sorts of facts and figures about job placement rates and success stories of graduates who land on Google, Apple, or Facebook, though maybe don’t look too closely at the fine print.

Boot camps are intensive, immersive programs designed to give students the skills they need to land jobs in a technical field, such as software development or data analysis, in a short period of time. If much of this promise sounds too good to be true, it’s partly because it is. “Learning to code” isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it’s not a guaranteed path to a lucrative career. Boot camps work for some people but not everyone and the caliber of different schools can be a real situation where your mileage may vary. Some students end up with thousands of dollars in debt that they struggle to pay off, or they get stuck in revenue sharing agreements who cut their pay for months and years – pay for a job that is far from what they were promised.

“The biggest problem with boot camps is that there are so many of them, they are everywhere, and there is no real quality control, so you don’t know what you are getting into,” said Erin Mindell Cannon. Director of Learning and HR Development at Paradigm Strategy Inc., who has worked at Google for over a decade. “It’s really hard for someone to make a judgment.”

I’ve always assumed that tech boot camps pay off – as a journalist, I’m familiar with “learn to code“Twitter responds that it lands whenever there are layoffs. But the reality is much more complicated. Boot camps are selling a 21st-century version of the American dream — one where you can jack yourself up and immerse yourself in the tech lifestyle of Silicon Valley in a short amount of time.

It is easy to see why this prospect is attractive. Despite the tech sector’s recent troubles, it still remains an enticing arena. The traditional pathways to high-tech jobs through higher education are not ideal, especially with rising student debt. It’s also easy to see why making a career in tech is more difficult than a training course might suggest. Programming is complex and takes time to learn; the best thing you can do in a few months is cramming. These mostly for-profit schools often cater to marginalized people who really can’t afford to fail, and then they let them down.

“Not everyone wants to be a programmer, not everyone can be a programmer,” said Zed Shaw, a software engineer and author of several books on programming. But “there is money in selling dreams,” he said. And that’s what boot camps do.

This successful tech career is harder to get than advertised.

You don’t have to look far for examples of bad bootcamp behavior. In 2017 New York Attorney General reached a settlement with one school for operating without the required licenses and making misleading employment and salary claims. Last year, former students of another coding academy sued, claiming that they were targeted at predatory revenue sharing agreements (ISAs). This month alone, the Washington Attorney General sued a technology sales program that claims students have been “swindled” into paying thousands of dollars for an alleged “guarantee that you will receive a job offer worth more than $60,000 (from the technology company of your choice)”. CEO of this boot camp, Prehired, filed hundreds of lawsuits against former students demanding that they repay delinquent student loans taken out for those guaranteed jobs they didn’t get.

Problems programming the Lambda School boot camp, which has since rebranding like BloomTech, were Well documented. (One person I spoke to for this story jokingly called her “Scambda”.) overestimation of results and shove students with lousy ISAs. One former student, Christina Ewing, attended the Lambda UX Design program in 2019. Ewing, a veteran who describes himself as a “jack of all trades,” hoped they would get more remote opportunities from the program, but dropped it midway after finding the content missing (school suspended program in 2020). Subsequently, they went through another boot camp, which gave them jobs, but they were still on the hook for ISA Lambda. “I still have to pay them if I get a job,” they said, although Lambda didn’t help them get one.

If you have signed up for a boot camp, try to research the information in advance. Schools can inflate the number of jobs by hiring a group of their graduates as teaching assistants, or classify many dubious jobs as “technical” among other tactics. It’s a good idea to try and talk to alumni, search the internet for reviews and ratings, and find out if boot camps partner with companies you’d like to work for (and find out what such a partnership entails).

There are about 100 coding boot camps in the US, graduating about 25,000 annually and averaging about $14,000. course report, which helps match students with programs. There is a lot of variety in the space, and not all boot camps are created equal, nor are they all questionable in their tactics. Most boot camps are not accredited.

They may work for some people. I spoke to an alumnus who went through a self-guided boot camp to advance in the progressive organization she works for. I was talking to another graduate who had successfully transitioned from technical consulting to software development. Both had some benefits: her job helped pay for her boot camp; he majored in computer science.

Chloe Condon, senior development engineer and former actress who completed Hackbright boot camp in 2016 and is now a mentor, had someone in her life to help her navigate the industry. She says that getting a job after boot camp is a grueling process. That’s why she emphasizes that choosing a program and achieving success “really depends on the individual.”

But just how difficult it can be to find a job after graduation, schools don’t always openly talk about it. Carolyn, whose last name has not been released to protect her privacy, has been looking for a job for a year and a half after attending a 17-week boot camp designed for women and non-binary people. Eventually her tuition was forgiven except for $3,000 she paid up front, but she took a big financial hit by being out of work for a year. “Given the length of the program, how short it was, it was impossible to even touch the surface of everything that companies expected from the roles they were trying to fill,” she said. It should be noted that some training camps close because the business model can be difficult to understand.

The boot camp trick works because so many other things don’t work.

The appeal of the tech boot camp is understandable. Higher education in America is expensive and dirty. According to college council, a four-year institution degree can cost between $11,000 and $38,000 per year. The labor market is difficult to navigate. The workers are getting some power and a decent boost right now, but there is inflation. If a recession comes, none of this will last long. Boot camps position themselves as a way to break into a rigged system. This is a romantic idea.

Ben Kaufman, director of research and investigations at the Student Borrower Advocacy Center, says boot camps more broadly reflect the country’s refusal to recognize education as a public good. On the contrary, it is seen as something that people have to pay – often quite a lot – for access. And when you combine that with the landscape of many dead end jobs, well, that’s it.

“We don’t want to tackle the hard questions about how you educate and pay for the training of the workforce, and in the absence of that, whether or not people should really learn to code, you had people who were ready and willing and very well funded. to fill the void and sell people the dream of being a big person in Silicon Valley,” Kaufman said. “We’ve been putting this on a pedestal for so long.”

It’s a tricky situation: tech companies can be elitist, and they’re not very good at attracting people from all walks of life. There are no clear answers on how to improve the situation – several people I spoke to for this story suggested that people without a degree in computer science might try to learn programming on their own, which, as you know, is also difficult (although not super expensive). ), or see what’s available at your local college.

Boot camps “promise too much but deliver less results,” said Ben Sandofsky, app developer and co-founder of photography app Halide. He says technology needs more variety and people with different backgrounds, it’s just that the boot camp approach may not be the best way to go. Career transitions can be difficult and rare. “It’s usually a way to trick people into doing things beyond their means,” Sandofsky said.

The people who need to be especially careful when deciding whether to participate in a boot camp are people who are already disadvantaged – people they often target. “If you can’t afford to lose that money, then it’s not worth the risk,” said Mindell Cannon.

What if the path to one of the most attractive areas of the economy is long, winding and full of mines? Of course, people will look for shortcuts, however imperfect they may be.

We live in a world that is constantly trying to deceive and deceive us, where we are always surrounded by scammers, big and small. It may seem impossible to navigate. Join Emily Stewart every two weeks to look at all the little ways our economic systems control and manipulate the average person. Welcome to Big squeeze.

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