How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 0

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Week 1 >>

Path to Programming

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I tell them I want to build [game-changing] software in Silicon Valley. They think that’s pretty cool and the next question is always about where I got my computer science degree.

Erm…I didn’t.

I got a Business Administration degree and had no credentials, training, or even background reading in software development until about 4 weeks ago – which is when I Googled ‘difference between front-end and back-end development’. So yeah…’novice’ was kind of written on my forehead.

I am still definitely very much a novice, but that first Google search set into motion a series of followup searches. These led to my introduction to the concept of online tutorials and eventually, I found development bootcamps.


Its not About the Money

Development bootcamps are a new concept that have been gaining traction rapidly over the past few years. Starting with Dev Bootcamp in 2012, they’ve been popping up left and right. Most boast job placement rates in the upper 90%’s and some even guarantee positions for each of their students.

As a result, demand for admission has skyrocketed and the market is happily providing supply. While this is fantastic for the ‘coding bootcamp industry’, it makes choosing the right one all the more difficult for prospective students.

The promises bootcamps make about glorious 6-figure software engineering jobs had me unmoved – it is just too hard to believe that 8 to 12 weeks are sufficient to amass the kind of knowledge needed to land those jobs. I preferred to look further into bootcamps that made more realistic promises, like claiming to be able to jumpstart (not finish) the programming learning process and helping to find a junior developer position/internship that would serve more as a learning apprenticeship than a comfortable long term gig.

This particular criteria filtered out a huge number of options. Next, I wanted to learn stuff that would be useful to me for a while. Programming languages and frameworks go in and out of ‘style’ constantly – the last thing I wanted was to build skills in something only to have to start over in something new right away. My research said that JavaScript is a very popular upcoming language used on both the front end and back end – and that’s how I zoned in on Coding House.


How do You Prepare for a Bootcamp?

Before the bootcamps (but after the shorter online videos), I found instructional websites like Treehouse and Code School. At the time, I didn’t have the time (or sheer motivation to carve out time) to spend the hours on these websites that were needed to achieve even the lowest level of proficiency in programming. When I was accepted into Coding House, however, I buckled down began pummeling through them. I found that Treehouse was absolutely perfect for HTML and CSS with a fantastic tutorial for building a website. When I got to programming and JavaScript, however, I got a bit bored. The tutorials were long, and to someone totally unfamiliar with the syntax, they were difficult to follow as well.

I tried Code School at that point, and absolutely loved their JavaScript tutorials. Code School has shorter videos than Treehouse, and more time is spent in guided exercises than simply listening to lectures. This catered well to my minuscule attention span and let me build a solid introduction to basic (very basic) JavaScript. It should be noted, however, that Treehouse goes into a lot more detail – if I had more time to prepare before starting my bootcamp at Coding House, I would definitely have worked through all the Treehouse tutorials as well – just after finishing Code School for the basics.

The most important thing I did to prepare, though, was to actually build my own website. Its one thing to listen to someone as they do something and completely different to complete every step on your own with the result being the first website you ever develop. The website I built is simple, but it became my personal website and I can continuously make improvements as I learn new things. I also pushed this code to my Github account, where a potential employer or coworker can see the changes (improvements) I make over time.


Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Of course, I also spent some time panicking before flying out to San Francisco to attend Coding House. One thing I learned, though, is that there’s no room for stress and frustration in development. There will always be bugs in your code (as small as a missing semi-colon or extra backslash) that can prevent the entire thing from running. Looking for such bugs is time consuming, frustrating, and often stressful when you are in a time crunch. Flipping out will make it a bad experience instead of a learning one. I find that taking a little bit of alone time to reflect on how the day is going and how it can be better – almost like meditating – is very helpful.

The best part is, getting through the tougher initial learning process is a huge achievement – I am excited to have the skills I need to learn how to become a great programmer by the end of this bootcamp. There is a huge demand for good computer programmers (a trend which is likely to continue into the near future), so the job and salary outlooks are fantastic. Plus, being able to build an idea is a highly coveted skill. Many people even decide to build their own startups. The opportunities are endless and I’m excited to get started at Coding House and discover more along the way!

MOOCs and the SMB: Are MOOCs the Answer? Part Two – Retention and T&D



Pronunciation: /mo͞ok/ NOUN

  • A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people:anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up

SMBs can face many challenges.  Creating business plans. Entering the world of Social Media.  Actually leaving work at the end of the business day.

Often times, those challenges are HR based.  Recruitment.  Retention.  Training & Development. Termination.  Each of those challenges are expensive, time consuming but extremely valuable.  What is a SMB owner to do?  In the first installment of MOOCs and the SMB: Are MOOCs the Answer? we looked at determining your target audience and recruitment.  Today we will explore Retention and T&D.  


So you’ve hired a Gen Y worker – now how can you keep them? When Software Advice studied a sample of job applications from 2013 asking the question “What is most important to you in a job”, the top 4 things were:

  1. Salary and Benefits (34%)
  2. Culture and Atmosphere (31%)
  3. Fulfillment and Satisfaction (30%)
  4. Growth and Development (25%)

A SMB is in an ideal position to provide any and all of these top 4 requests.  Cultural misalignment was found to be a top reason why Gen Ys leave a company.

Gen Ys want consistent and ongoing training.  When respondents were asked if they would participate in an employer offered professional development training via a free MOOC, almost 75% of 18-24 year olds and approximately 60% of 24-34 year olds said Yes!

If your employer offered professional development training via a free MOOC, would you participate?

If your employer offered professional development training via a free MOOC, would you participate?


It is interesting to note that about 58% of respondents (18-24) and over 50% of respondents (25-34) said that they would be more likely to stay with an employer if they offered professional development training via a free MOOC.

Gen Y wants table

Considering that Gen Yers will leave a job if the things that are important to them are not meant – and studies have found that many will move on –  at a significant cost to your business, it is in your own best interest to provide great reasons to stay.  A survey conducted by Millenial Branding and found that “87% of companies said it cost $15,000 to $25,000 to replace a departed millennial employee”. That’s a lot of money – of your money and potential profits!

Training and Development

T&D is a part of any good HR plan.  It’s a necessary expense for a business to grow and prosper.  Training must be of high quality and employees must see the value in it.  Technology changes quickly and training needs to keep up with those changes.  MOOCs can provide an opportunity to train your team at a lower cost.

 “CEO says to CFO we need to spend money training our staff.  CFO say what if we spend the money and they leave?CEO says what if we don’t spend it and they stay?” (Author Unknown)

Keeping your team trained and up to date will make them happier and more productive.  Employees who feel like a company invests in them  – especially if they are cross trained for other positions – are generally more efficient, feel more confident and find their jobs more interesting.

By finding the right MOOCs for your business, you can train multiple employees on any number of things – from programming to social media, from proper business communication to marketing and anything else you can think of! Best of all – if there isn’t a MOOC for it today, there could be tomorrow! “Many of the courses that are currently available online through sites like Coursera or edX are theory based academic-style classes. While these are useful for users seeking general knowledge about featured topics, these type of theory based courses are
probably not the best fit for SMBs. However, these sites also often feature skills-based courses that focus on a specific business objective, which would be more useful for SMBs,” explains Erin Osterhaus, HR Researcher at Software Advice.

As more Universities come on board, the number of quality MOOCs are growing.  More training and development groups who would typically have come into your business and trained on Time Management or Selling Techniques are now developing MOOCs to be used and referred to at anytime.  These groups will customize a Learning Management System (LMS) to suit your needs for a large scale training plan or build a single course. Developing an LMS gives you the power to assign classes to specific individuals, see their progress and give you or the instructor a chance to create a dialogue with course participants through forums and chat rooms.

Coming up in our last article on MOOCs and the SMB: Are MOOCs the answer for the SMB? we will be looking at Termination and the use of MOOCs in a PIP to improve an underperforming employee.