Last week we shared our team’s answers to the question, “What makes a good developer?” These 10 characteristics are ones we value as a company. More than that, they’re characteristics that each of the developers on our team demonstrates.
But there’s another surprising similarity among some of our developers that didn’t make the list: four of them have graduated from DevLeague’s accelerated learning bootcamp in Hawaii. We didn’t set out to hire from the bootcamp, which made the pattern all the more intriguing. What is it about DevLeague program that prepared high-quality candidates for the complexity of real-world programming?
I sat down with Jeff, Mellanie, Nick, and Jay to see what we could learn:
A new career path
Why did you sign up for DevLeague’s bootcamp?
Nick: “When I initially heard of DevLeague, I had just finished my undergraduate degree, and I had moved back to Hawaii and gotten a job with a marketing company, where I was an account manager in their digital department. In that role, I did a lot of quasi-project management with a lot of software developers, and I really liked their personalities. I felt like they were very important to the whole structure of the business, so I figured that would be something really important to learn.”
Mel: “I was working in the healthcare industry, and it wasn’t a challenge anymore. One of my coworkers was learning how to code, and I started talking to him. It piqued my interest, so I googled around and found there was a bootcamp here in Hawaii. I did the prep class, and I’ve been addicted ever since.”
Jeff: “I was in a rut for awhile, working retail for eight years. I hated going to work. And then my friend, who happened to be a teacher with DevLeague at that time, gave me things to try out to see if I’d like programming. And it was pretty interesting. I had to actually use my brain for once, and it felt nice: ‘Wow, I actually get to use logic and use that part of my brain I’ve never ever used before.’ And that’s what’s gotten me hooked.”
Jay: “I was working at a company that made a lot of YouTube content. And I worked in the equipment room as an equipment manager. I was in charge of renting out the cameras and lights and all of the gear. There was a lot of back-breaking work, and it was also mundane—doing the same kind of things over again. It got really boring.
“I started to do some coding on my own time, and I liked it. It was really, really challenging, really different from what I was doing before. But I enjoyed it, so I thought, “Why not check out a bootcamp?”
As a bootcamp, DevLeague is a fast-paced, intensive introduction to programming. The financial and time investment ensures that the students who sign up are serious about learning to code. And those who graduate are prepared with more than just theoretical knowledge.
Misfits & outcast
One of DevLeague’s founders “on background” has described in the best possible way that the ideal DevLeague student is a bit of a misfit or an outcast. Does that ring true for you?
Nick: “Outcast often has a negative connotation, but I think what he means is we don’t fit the mold necessarily of everyday jobs. More than an outcast, I’ve always been more of a loner. I’ve never really been very gregarious. Being able to have a job where I can just focus in on what I’m doing and not always have someone looking over my shoulder was really important.”
Mel: “I didn’t follow a traditional learning path. I never got a degree, but I knew I was smart and could learn if I wanted to. In that way you’re an outcast because you’re not like the majority of people who have degrees and a paper background to tell them, ‘You actually know your stuff.'”
Jeff: “I would agree. I had tried traditional college when I was younger, but nothing caught my attention. Why do you have to do all of these mundane classes that don’t have anything to do with what you want to do? And plus, they were expensive. So I dropped out.”
Although they may not have followed the traditional school → college → career path, the graduates we’ve hired from DevLeague have been professional, hard-working, and skilled. They understand the process of software development in addition to having fluency in code. Recognizing the potential in those that may be considered misfits by others is one of the things that has made DevLeague a successful bootcamp. To be clear: college is a great option for many and offers other benefits beyond teaching specific career skills. “One size [does not] fit all.”
What was the most important thing you learned during DevLeague?
Nick: “The biggest thing I learned was humility. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll come in here, and it’ll be super easy. It’ll be a breeze. No problem.’ But I quickly learned that was not the case, and it was much harder than I thought. It’s knowing you’re never going to know everything and you’re always going to be catching up to someone or something or some skill.”
Mel: “The most important thing I took out of it was rewiring my brain—relearning how to learn but in a different way. And that means not just looking in books and stuff. You have to look at all these different sources, right? You have to Google and then you find videos and articles and have to figure out what works and what doesn’t work and why it works. And you need to learn how to do that pretty quickly, otherwise you get stuck in rabbit holes.”
Jeff: “One of the most important things I learned was working as a team. I would often prepare a program with different partners, and I’d get frustrated with some people. I had to learn how to deal with that and be nicer about it. I was a little impatient and learned patience in the process.”
Jay: “The most important thing I learned during the bootcamp is imposter syndrome is real. Before joining the bootcamp, I was freaking out. Even going into the bootcamp, I was freaking out. And after graduating and finding real work, I was freaking out. So for me it was a lot for me to believe in myself and try new things. Learning it’s okay to fail, but you need to learn from your mistakes.”
DevLeague doesn’t just teach the mechanics of programming or specific languages; it also teaches the skills a developer needs to be successful. This real-world knowledge and experience has made each of these developers a valuable part of the Agathon team. As each has joined our team, we’ve worked with them in formal and informal mentoring arrangements to quickly bring them up to the level of performance we expect from our team. Their education has drastically shortened the amount of time that required.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Jeff: “I’m really glad I went through DevLeague. I’d say it’s always a risk because you have to persist. Only a few of us went on to be developers; a lot of people didn’t. And it’s a lot of money if you don’t continue. So you just have to be persistent with it and just keep trying and trying.“
Jay: “Having gone through DevLeague and worked at DevLeague, I’ve seen a lot of people come through, and not everyone gets a developing job. DevLeague gives you all the tools, but it’s really up to you to use the tools and push yourself forward if you want to stay on this track. Even after the bootcamp, finding a job is hard. It’s really up to the individual to be motivated and really put themselves out there to get a job.”
Nick: “If you’re deciding to do a bootcamp, you have to make sure you realize it’s not just going to be a free lunch. You have to go in there and determine to succeed. Just like anything else in life, You have to make sure you go in there with a can-do attitude and not get discouraged. Especially in technology or any software field, that’s especially important.”
While an accelerated learning bootcamp may not be the right option for everyone, it gave these four developers the foundation they needed to make real contributions from day one. We’re glad to have each of them on the team and appreciate the skills they developed through their time at DevLeague!
With 10 years of experience as a professional blogger—and as a former Agathon hosting client herself—Mandi’s passionate about the good work Agathon does and sharing that message with more people.