current employee is job-searching, negotiating with an old boss, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I received the resume of a current employee who appears to be job-searching

I received an email update from Indeed today announcing an updated resume from a potential candidate for a job we have posted. The candidate is one of our current employees. Do you think it is okay to share this information with the employee? I was thinking along the lines of “I wanted to share with you this email. You are very valued here and I wanted to know if you are happy and if not, is there something we can work through?”

Sure, you can do that. Be aware, though, that she’s likely to be thoroughly freaked out that her job search isn’t confidential anymore, and so you’ll want to be very clear about the fact that you’re not about to push her out or otherwise penalize her, and that you genuinely want to talk about whether there’s anything you can do on your end to keep her (assuming that you do, and it sounds like that’s the case). There’s some advice here on how to do that. And don’t do this.

Your other option is to skip that conversation and just think about why she might be job-searching. Is she paid well? Managed well? Does her job still challenge her? You might be able to figure out how to make staying more enticing without even telling her what you learned, and that’s potentially a better option if your sense of her is that she’ll be really rattled by the other option.

2. Can I negotiate with my old boss who might be offering me a job at a new company?

By all appearances, I am about to get a position with my old manager, who is now a director at another company, as a manager working for him. This person consistently advocated for me in my previous position where salary and promotions were concerned. In short, he was my mentor and always looked out for me.

Fast forward. We were having a conversation about a new role for which he’s hiring now. As far as I know, I’m the only applicant, and because of our rapport I’ve been told I’m basically waiting on an offer. When we were discussing salary in the interview, I was a little unhappy with the range and said so – something like “the closer you can get me to X, the better.” He said something about how he was a little flexible and would work to get me closer to that number.

If the offer comes in lowish, is negotiating reasonable? The company itself offers amazing work/life balance and some other perks I know are hard to find. I’m torn because all professional wisdom says to negotiate the first offer (especially as a woman), but the other part of me says he wouldn’t lowball me and would get me as much as he could for the role to begin with.

Not lowballing you doesn’t mean he couldn’t still go up a bit if you negotiate. Plenty of places tell their managers (or managers tell themselves), “Offer $X, but you can go up to $Y if you need to” (where $X isn’t a bad offer, but just not the absolute best they can do).

It should be fine to say something like, “I was hoping for X — is there any way to get there?”

3. Telling my boss I won’t be returning from maternity leave

I’m currently on maternity leave that will be ending in mid-February. While I originally told my boss I’d be returning, things have changed during my maternity leave and I have accepted a job with another company that is much closer to my home and daughter’s daycare.

I’d like to know what I should do in terms of giving my boss my resignation. I suggested to my husband that I could go in and personally speak to my boss. However, my husband thinks it would be too awkward for me and suggested I email or call my boss instead. To me, emailing or calling him seems really cold. What would you suggest?

Call him. I don’t think you need to make a special trip to see him, and since you’d presumably need to schedule the meeting with him in advance, it’s likely to tip him off anyway. Since you’re on leave, a phone call is perfectly a reasonable way to handle it.

4. Can I ask interviewers about their budget deficit?

I don’t yet have a call for a second interview for a small nonprofit (8-10 people). I applied for the position of executive director and I am very qualified. They have checked my references and told one of them that they really liked me.

During the research phase prior to my interview, I saw that they have a budget deficit of almost $70,000 on their 2013 Form 990 and it was noted in their annual report. I will be checking further to see if they have filed their Form 990 for 2014 to identify if there is still the deficit. Also during the first interview, the board said they give contributions to the organization, but didn’t talk about them assisting the ED with fundraising.

Is it permissible to ask about the budget deficit and board development if I were to be asked for a second interview? Or do you think this will be too confrontational? I am not concerned about plugging the hole in the budget if they were to hire me, but I am concerned if the board does not participate in fundraising and doesn’t think it is their job.

Yes, you should absolutely ask about both these things! You do not want to take on the job of running an organization without a very good understanding of their finances and the role of the board members (in fundraising and in all else). If you’re hired as ED, their problems will be your problems, and it’s crucial to know what you’d be walking into.

5. Are coding camps worth doing?

What is your (or your readers’) opinion of coding camps, where students with non-technical degrees can go for a few months to learn to code? I’m finding that I’m not very good at my current job and will probably never be a high-performer at it, so I am looking into other possible fields. I have enough money saved that I could afford to leave the workforce for a few months and pay for the tuition/housing, but I am concerned that it will be a waste of time and money. From a hiring perspective, would I be better off getting another undergraduate degree in computer science, or do you think coding camps are worth a try?

This it outside my area of expertise (other than believing that intense, hands-on experience is almost always better than another degree), so I’m throwing this out to readers to weigh in on.

{ 274 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Shannon

    I’m not sure I fully understand #1. HR gets an email from Indeed stating that a potential candidate for one of their jobs has updated their resume. Is the potential candidate applying for a new job in the company? Or is this a left over from when the candidate applied for their job?

    Reply
    1. OPfor#2

      Maybe it’s a reversal of job seeker resume matches? You know like “indeed thinks these jobs would be a good fit” but since HR “indeed thinks these candidates would be a good fit”

      Reply
    2. Lee Ann

      I got an email from my own company’s recruiters asking if I’d be interested in a job that sounded really great – because it was my team! Somehow, back when I got hired, someone forgot to tick the box saying they’d hired me.

      Reply
      1. Glasskey

        This happened to me recently, too….The recruiter I work with sent me an email encouraging me to apply for an entry-level position on the team that I manage, a position that I used to hold before getting promoted two years ago. I’m tempted to apply, but I heard someone say that the boss is an idiot!

        Reply
      2. Noah

        I once received a “thanks for applying but you were not chosen” email for the company and position I was already working in. No one from HR has ever been able to explain that one.

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        1. Macedon

          I was similarly crushed to be rejected for a role after I’d refused the company’s nigh-offensively weak offer for it a week prior. I was sorely tempted to e-mail back with, “No, I dumped you first“, but my inner five-year-old was somehow otherwise appeased. Probably by chocolate.

          Reply
        2. Liz

          I got that too! Brassring apparently had some glitches, which included posting my manager’s job again. I asked (in a joking way, because I knew it was an error) whether he’d talked to HR lately and showed him the posting along with my “rejection” for the job I’d been excelling in for the past year, and we both had a good laugh.

          Reply
      3. Lisa

        That happened to me too! Apparently, I was being paid $30K less then what new people were being offered that I then was training to do the job. I quit.

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      4. Stranger than fiction

        The odd thing is, though, it sounds like the Op had her current job on the resume, in which case it’s strange that Indeed wouldn’t recognize the person is currently working there. In your case, it sounds like your current job wasn’t on there yet because it was from your last job search before you worked there.

        Reply
    3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      I think that this employee updated their resume, and Indeed sent it to the company as a “you might be interested in this person as a candidate for a job”, but I’m not very familiar with Indeed so I might be way off.

      Reply
      1. Rubyrose

        My thought also. I know I periodically go through and update my online resumes, whether I’m looking for a job or not.

        Reply
        1. Deb

          Not familiar with Indeed either, but here’s another question I would pose to OP: would the open job that you’ve posted be a promotion for this current employee, or is it a demotion or more of a lateral move? If it would be a promotion, that could affect the way you approach the conversation with the employee (if you’re going to have a conversation with them). Perhaps he/she is not feeling challenged in the current role or feels that he/she could be performing at a higher level. If you agree that he/she is ready for a promotion, you might want to consider him/her for the slot after all, even if it was just an Indeed flub.

          Reply
          1. Lisa

            That is interesting. The employee prob knows they are hiring, and is pissed that he/she isn’t being considered as an option. Prob hasn’t even asked, but prob thinks it should be obvious that they would like to be promoted.

            Reply
          2. Christy

            Hi All! I submitted this question (#1). We hired this employee fairly recently. The position that she was hired for is a sales role. We recently took on several new markets had five openings for the same position. We still have one opening, so the posting is still listed on Indeed. The update that we received is for the identical role/position.

            Reply
            1. Jessica

              So maybe if she is a recent hire, she was just updating the resume to reflect the new job so that she has all the information accurately saved in her resume, and wasn’t actually intending to search for other jobs. I wish I’d done that, as now job applications are asking for my exact start and end dates for all previous jobs, and I can’t remember that level of detail off the top of my head and had to sleuth through my email archives.

              Reply
    4. Allison

      Job boards with resume databases, like Indeed and Dice, often suggest candidates to employers based on jobs they post or searches they conduct via the website. Employers can also set up alerts so they know when someone who may be a fit posts their resume.

      Reply
    5. themmases

      I was confused for a minute too, so I went over to Indeed. The site lets you post your own resume and “let employers find you”. You can post it publicly or upload it privately to make it easier to attach to applications you complete through Indeed.

      I’m not sure if I would read much into it or not, honestly. The process is very easy, like updating your LinkedIn without having to rewrite anything. Similarly it seems like a pretty passive, convenient way of being findable for opportunities, which anyone should be. I’m sure this is what the OP’s employee will say if asked, although what OP is thinking of saying sounds pretty harmless to me.

      Reply
    6. Christy

      Hi Shannon!

      I submitted this question (#1), so I think I can help clarify. I received an email from Indeed that said something along the lines of “Here are some great candidates for your position! These candidates just updated their resume today!” The first candidate that was listed is a current employee of ours, who we adore and value greatly. I wrote to Alison in hopes of getting guidance on the best way to proceed, in an effort to ensure we don’t lose someone so awesome!

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        If I’m reading this correctly, the employee didn’t actually apply or reach out or even indicate they were looking for a new position: Indeed just passed along their information because they had updated their resume, yes? Lots of people update their resumes for no reason other than, well, update their resume. New tasks get added, new project successes, etc.

        I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the employee updating their resume means they have any desire to leave.

        Reply
        1. Jenn

          This is exactly what I was thinking. She probably just updated her resume with the new position not realizing that it would show up on something like that. I update my resume periodically and usually soon after I get a new position.

          Reply
      2. Rebecca in Dallas

        Oh, got it! I was confused as well.

        I periodically update stuff on LinkedIn even if I’m not actively job-searching. So it’s possible the employee was just doing that. But it might be worth looking at how happy she might be in her role.

        Reply
      3. Meg Murry

        Are you her current manager, or are you working in HR/recruiting?

        If you are the current manager, I think you don’t need to panic about her updating her resume (she might have just been changing her previous job from “to present” to put an end date on it, or updating her email address or similar) but I do think you could take some time to see how she is settling in. Even if you are in HR, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to schedule a meeting with someone (or even all new hires) and say “Ok, now that you’ve been here 1/2/3 months (whatever is applicable, but 2-3 months seems good to me), how are things going? How are you settling in? Anything you’ve found that surprised you, good or bad, that you didn’t learn during the interview process?” If nothing else, you might learn that she doesn’t feel she’s been trained well on XYZ, or that the interview said she’d be spending 50% of her time on A and 50% on B but so far it’s been more like 80/20, etc. You could also approach it as “you’ve been awesome so far, we’re so glad to have you, now we need to hire 5 more of you, so what can we do to make the hiring process even better so we can get you the best colleagues, and what can we do to make sure you are happy and stay here?”

        I’d check in with the employee just because it’s a good thing to do every so often, but not go immediately into flip out mode because she updated her resume on Indeed.

        Reply
    7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      The OP said “Indeed” forwarded the employee’s resume as a candidate – without checking the current employer (if it was listed at all).

      Once upon a onesome, I answered a blind want ad but substituted a relative’s name and address on the CV and cover letter.. turned out to be my current employer was covertly looking for new people, perhaps to churn the staff (new boss).

      Or he was trying to see “who’s looking?” Be careful with online searches…

      Reply
  2. Artemesia

    Re coding bootcamps. I personally know one person and know about others who used a 2 or 3 month coding bootcamp to retool. My friend went from low paid frustrating food service work to a full time job with good benefits and the possibility of advancement. I know indirectly of several others who got great jobs (especially compared to where they were before) following their programs. I think this is one of those things that may have a moment — but it seems to be working now for many.

    Reply
    1. LSP

      To offer another anecdote:

      My good friend did the same thing. He had enough funds to quit his job and take a 10 week boot camp. You spend the time creating your own free app. Something like that… Anyway, now he works for a start up and was offered a job less than 4 weeks after graduating.

      As for me, I was interested in code (just for fun, not a life change). I took a free course (well known online dot org) and I hated it!!! Well, I really enjoyed the first few weeks but it went from easy to insanely hard within one lesson. Of course I didn’t have the support or daily instruction that comes with a camp, so who knows what might have happened had I gone the boot camp route.

      Also, I feel like it was a comment I saw on AAM, but the commentor said learning the intricacies of (C++, Java, Python, insert programming language here) can take years. I know in my current job we train clients for 1-4 hours on our product, but it takes at least 9-14 months to really learn and understand the product. I’m curious to hear from programmers how they feel about boot camps and is there a difference between a new employee who comes with a degree/college courses vs a boot camp or other (on the job training for example).

      Reply
      1. KWu

        When companies hire a bootcamp grad, what they’re really doing is looking at this person’s demonstrated aptitude for learning technical subjects very intensely and very quickly. When I interviewed, I was completely upfront with my interviewers that I know I have a lot more to learn, but I’ve shown I’m very good at learning. There’s generally some minimum bar of absolute knowledge needed to be able to onboarded into a fulltime dev role in a reasonable time frame, but (at least at the reasonable tech companies) there’s leeway to take a few more months before binge able to start contributing significantly to the team’s work.

        Reply
        1. Polabear

          Even when companies hire full on computer science college graduates, they don’t expect them to be fully fledged developers in most cases. They are looking more for potential and problem solving ability.

          Reply
          1. Jinx

            This has been true in my experience. I’m a CS grad, and I’ve never started a job with extensive knowledge of all the programming languages I used during the course of that job. Sometimes you start doing one thing and end up doing something entirely different after a few months. There are so many technologies out there that most employers expect there to be a learning curve.

            Reply
          2. Artemesia

            There is a huge range of skill in grads of CS programs and a huge range of skills required in this work. My son moved immediately into very high level work and has gone higher since upon graduation; he was programming robots immediately and now does high level problem solving in another field within advanced software development. My friend who did the boot camp is working web page design and maintenance. Lots of grads end up in IT work in organizations which is sort of the lower rung of the field. There are lots of skill levels in this field which is why for advanced work people are put through tough problem solving situations where they develop code on the spot in front of an interview team for the high level positions. Many of the companies do complex problem solving phone screening before even moving people who look good on paper into on deck interviews.

            Reply
        2. Treena

          This. It’s almost impossible to find good mid-level programmers, you have to hire newbies who have good attitudes and aptitudes for learning in the style that’s needed for programming. That’s why bootcamp grads get snapped up so quickly, it’s not because they’re “good” or skilled by any means, it’s because the potential is there.

          My husband’s company recently hired a bootcamp grad and she’s working out super well. Most of the time, when I hear about co-workers, it’s because they’re terrible–when I hadn’t heard anything about the new hire, I made a point to ask, and he sang her praises because she learns quickly.

          Reply
        3. themmases

          Hi KWu, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed the post you shared about this a few weeks ago! It led me down an interesting internet rabbit hole learning about this topic and women in tech, so I’m happy to see you in these comments. I really like your blog. :)

          I think a lot of this conversation is not aimed at me because I do statistical computing and GIS work for research, not development, but I do just enough coding for that to find it really fascinating.

          Reply
          1. KWu

            Aw yay, that’s very sweet of you! I always have a vague concern that stuff I throw up on my blog mostly just goes into the ether, but I do it because it’s useful to me to have my own stuff I can link back to for further exposition. If you are ever interested in doing more coding, chat me up on Twitter (@kwugirl) I’d love to see how I can help!

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      2. Quirk

        So, there are different levels of “new developer”.

        There’s the new-to-the-commercial-world developer who’s been coding since their teens, maybe has a list of open source contributions to their credit, a portfolio of code to show. Degree or no degree, they know what they’re doing. As a hiring manager, the concerns remaining are largely about teamwork and process: clearly they have the tech chops, but do they play well with others?

        There’s the newbie developer with a fresh CS degree. They know a bunch of theory, some of it useful and necessary, much of it specialised to particular areas they may not get a chance to use, but they’ve been taught by academics who mostly have only a very basic notion of what programming entails. The good ones started coding in their spare time when they started university and, though they have a lot of gaps, and don’t really have any serious exposure to modern process, can probably be brought up to speed over the course of a year or so and become a strong developer. The bad ones never did any coding they weren’t strictly required to do; many of these will not become software developers but instead find another use for their degree.

        There’s the boot camp attendee. They don’t have years of programming experience, they don’t have CS theory. What they do have is a focused period in which they’ve probably been taught by people with real world experience and in which hopefully they’ve been introduced to good practices such as unit tests and code review. If there are other signifiers that they’re mathematically capable, they should at least be capable of learning the CS theory they bump into. All this is good. However, learning on the job is a vital component of software development, and it is very much self-directed with loose mentoring at best. Boot camp does not evidence the ability for self-directed learning in the same way, and I would have some misgivings about hiring someone with that background for anything more than routine maintenance of legacy systems.

        Reply
        1. Rat Racer

          This is really cool insight! My husband has been a software engineer since the late 90s, and has worked among academics (PhDs) and people who have never been to college, but coded all their lives out of pure interest and love of programming. I think he would agree that both tracks have their pros and cons, and these Boot Camps add another breed of professionals to the mix. As an outside observer who failed AP Pascal in highschool, I think it’s fascinating to watch this field evolve.

          Reply
        2. CAA

          I completely agree with you on the classification of newbies.

          One caveat for those considering boot camp is that it’s not a degree or equivalent to a degree, and there are many positions that still require those. You might be able to get into a software start-up, but you may have a difficult time moving into any other dev environment later on. Coding boot camp after you have a degree in something else would expand your options.

          Reply
          1. ThursdaysGeek

            That’s what I was thinking. I know a LOT of places won’t hire without a degree. Knowing a language and how to code an app is one thing, knowing some theory and how not to write a mess is something else, and both are important.

            If you already have a degree, the boot camp might be a good way to get some experience in a new language, if you want to change directions in your career.

            It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any job listings in my area that doesn’t require at least a bachelor’s degree. People I know with an Associates have been struggling to find anything other than very low paid work.

            Reply
            1. Anna

              In my section of the world, the companies that need coders are working with organizations to directly place people so they aren’t likely to worry too much about degrees.

              Reply
          2. KWu

            True, this is definitely something I’ve considered for as my career in software evolves–whether a lack of a C.S. undergrad or masters degree will end up being a barrier to entry to more advanced roles. I think that’s something you can figure out later on, though, especially since the field evolves quite quickly and you’ll know better what you want to pursue after some initial experience.

            Reply
        3. Rachel

          I do the applicant screening for programmers, and I agree with this assessment. As an organization, we look more favorably on the small but interesting portfolio and the new graduate than the boot camp attendee. Even if we don’t use the code that the applicant focused on at university, we’ve found that those applicants tend to be more adaptable in the long run. Boot camp attendance can help strengthen a resume, but it doesn’t advance an applicant past the ‘beginner’ phase.

          Reply
        4. super anon

          If there are other signifiers that they’re mathematically capable, they should at least be capable of learning the CS theory they bump into.”

          do you think it’s necessary to be good at math to be able to do computer programming? i’ve always wanted to learn programming/coding but i’m awful at math. i failed math throughout school and barely was able to finish the first half of grade 11 math to graduate. i distinctly remember failing even the probability section (which was easy and everyone passed) and being so frustrated with myself and my inability to do math that i swore to never do math again.

          so – i haven’t actively done any type of math that isn’t basic everyday things for over 10 years. i’ve considered going back to learn high school level math because to me it’s embarrassing to be essentially number illiterate, but i’ve always been very intimidated by it and the memories of frustration and failure during school. that being said – can i ever learn how to program? or is math essential to working with programs and computers?

          Reply
          1. Quirk

            It varies. Do note that not being good at a particular field of mathematics does not necessarily impact your ability to do well in other fields; my ex-girlfriend also hated stats and could never get the hang of working with them, but prospered in areas of pure maths such as number theory and set theory, gained an MMath, and adapted very well to software.

            Computer science itself is a branch of mathematics, and algorithmic analysis finds its way onto university-level maths courses. Certain areas of software development get very wrapped up in university-level mathematics – e.g. computer graphics, optimisation algorithms, etc tend to expose you to chunks of matrix maths. However, getting a website up and running is very different, and working on one means you’ll probably be dealing with nothing worse than Boolean logic.

            This blog post by Jeff Atwood argues that maths doesn’t matter that much to programmers; while this is arguably not generally true and he gets taken to task in the comments, he did found the very successful website Stack Overflow and it can probably be taken as representative of his experience.
            http://blog.codinghorror.com/should-competent-programmers-be-mathematically-inclined/

            There tends to be a heavy cross-over between people who are good at maths and people who’re good at coding, but the sets are not identical. All you can do is give it a try and see if it clicks with you.

            Reply
            1. ThursdaysGeek

              I got a minor in math to go with my major in Comp Sci, and really, have never used much of that math at all. I keep getting work where having some accounting knowledge would be useful (which I don’t have), and that is a type of math too. But as for the stats, calculus, differential equations and the rest I took for the minor: I’ve completely forgotten it all, since I’ve never used it.

              Reply
              1. Joanna

                Um, I would not call accounting knowledge “a type of math.” I mean, it uses + – * /, sure, but that doesn’t make it a type of math.

                But as a software engineer, and math lover, I would agree that I don’t use math in my job much at all.

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                1. MommaTRex

                  I would disagree that accounting knowledge is not a “type of math”. It doesn’t just use mathematical operators like +-*/. It uses concepts like double-entry bookkeeping (debits must equal credits) and it requires the ability to summarize transactional data into a meaningful form that is useful to readers of financial statements. To do this, one must apply theoretical concepts, for example, what really constitutes a liability? (It may seem cut-and-dried on the surface, but you might be surprised that there are many gray areas.)An accountant should also be able to formulate conclusions about an entity’s financial position based on available data.

                2. ThursdaysGeek

                  I think people who are math averse would certainly consider accounting in the side of things they want to avoid. And I used to think it was just addition and subtraction too, which is why I didn’t need to take it in school. As MommaTRex points out, it’s a lot more than that.

              2. Quirk

                Calculus is not really relevant to CS IMO, and stats only really if you’re into machine learning or something similar. The branches of maths that found their way to my CS degree were graph theory, set theory, matrices, algorithmic analysis. Of the maths I’ve studied, most of the stuff that I later used is basic matrix maths. Much like CS theory, you only seem to end up using the branches relevant to the field you go into.

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          2. Meg Murry

            I don’t think it’s necessarily being good at math, per se, that is required for coding, but more being good at the same kind of skills that also make people good at math. So not necessarily about knowing your multiplication tables offhand or how to do complex trig, but more about problem solving skills, and being able to see patterns or break things down into parts. How do you approach “my light in my living room doesn’t turn on?” for instance? Do you just say “huh, flip switch, nothing happens, call landlord or electrician?” or do you try some basic troubleshooting like trying a new lightbulb, plugging it into a different outlet, checking to see what else isn’t working in your house, whatever?

            Lots of people get caught in a “I can’t do math!” spiral where they freeze and panic whenever something seems difficult. My sister was one of those people. Not sure if you are female, but she said the math books aimed at middle school girls by Danica McKellar have actually been really helpful because they teach math in a way she is actually interested in. For instance, she doesn’t care what time 2 trains will get to Paris or what the probability of getting heads 10 times is a row is. But the books (I think one is called “Kiss My Math”) teaches by explaining things that she might do (or have actually done in middle school) like teaches multiplication and pattern by talking about making a beaded necklace and how to figure out how many of each color bead to buy, or how to figure out that if you have a $10 coupon for store A but 25% off plus free shipping for store B which one is the better deal. It might be something you could consider checking out, to get past that fear of math.

            And FYI, the fact that you used the italics commenting switch already means you know a tiny bit of HTML and have learned to seek out answers (in this case by reading when someone else explained it or by clicking on teh commenting guidelines) which I would take as a very good sign!

            Reply
            1. KWu

              Yup, all of this! Breaking down a big problem into its component parts, and continuing to do that until you have pieces small enough that you know how to solve, until you build it up again–that’s very important, but is also a muscle to be developed.

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            2. Tau

              Yes! Coming at it from the opposite angle, I switched careers to programming after finishing my PhD in pure maths. Although I only very rarely need to use actual maths, I can definitely feel myself using the same skills as during my PhD – perseverance and independent problem solving, logical thinking, considering all logical possibilities in a given situation instead of just the expected or probable ones (vital for writing both solid mathematical proofs and bug-free code), abstracting problems, understanding a complex network of interacting abstract concepts, etc. etc. etc. I’ve been commended on producing robust code that’s well designed and I think I definitely have my PhD to thank for that, even though exactly none of the material I developed or read for my thesis are of any relevance to what I do now.

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          3. KWu

            1. I don’t think it’s necessary to be “good at math”, especially if that’s defined as “getting good grades in math classes at school” or “finding it easy to teach yourself math” or “memorizing formulas.” Logic is very important, but not even like philosophy classes on formal logic, but just reasoning through things step-by-step in an orderly fashion, being able to pull in abstract ideas, stuff like that.

            2. Also, a lot of the whole point of computers is you give them instructions to do the math for you, rather than having to do the tedious calculations yourself. There are certain kinds of programming where advanced math does become more important, but there are also plenty of jobs in web development where it isn’t.

            3. I think it’d be great if you picked up those old subjects from your math high school classes again! It definitely can be quite intimidating and need courage to overcome that, but I bet you can do it, especially since you’ll be freerer now to choose the format that will work best for you to learn. I read a really interesting piece on why a lot of math education doesn’t really stick with people, called the “problem-solution ordering” issue:
            – intro: https://mkremins.github.io/blog/doors-headaches-intellectual-need/
            “if you introduce the solution (in this case, a new kind of math) before introducing the kind of problems that it’s meant to solve, the solution is likely to come across as pointless and arbitrary. But if you first let students try to tackle these problems with the math they already understand, they’re likely to come away with a kind of intellectual “headache” – and, therefore, to better understand the purpose of the “aspirin” you’re trying to sell.”
            – on “productive failure” in math education: http://qz.com/535443/the-best-way-to-understand-math-is-learning-how-to-fail-productively/

            Reply
        5. KWu

          I like this teasing out of different kinds of developers-new-to-coding-fulltime. Two points of disagreement:

          1. I’d substitute “mathematically capable” with “logic and detail-oriented”–I don’t think more pure math knowledge than maybe basic algebra is needed. I will point to my own blog post on this again: http://kwugirl.blogspot.com/2015/05/how-do-you-know-if-you-would-like.html

          2. I was going to completely disagree that bootcamp experience isn’t evidence for the ability to self-direct learning, but upon reflection I see what you mean about bootcamp grad vs. entirely solo learner. Still, many of the bootcamps are fairly loose in structure as compared to most traditional classroom learning, and the best instructors get the students over a critical period of building up the skills for finding answers and developing the confidence that with enough effort and experimentation, computers are not magic. Continued mentoring is certainly needed, so bootcamp grads themselves shouldn’t accept offers with teams that don’t have the capacity or interest to do that, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful in the right environment, which can be far more varied than routine maintenance of legacy systems.

          Reply
          1. Quirk

            1) Understanding recursion is not something that everyone who studies CS manages to properly get a handle on, but folk who’ve got a good handle on recurrence relations and proofs by induction generally don’t find it problematic. There’s a bunch of conceptual stuff like this which has a heavy cross-over into maths, and there are times it comes up (e.g. functional programming languages like Scala are heavily recursive). As an employer, it’s hard to know if someone’s going to be able to “get” important concepts later, and someone seeming logical in the interview is not the same as having actually studied something that demanded a high level of logical competence.

            2) I do want to say that over time a boot camp graduate can significantly shift their position, provided they’re sufficiently self-directed to want to catch up, and there’s potential in the longer term to be capable of anything. However, there is a lot to catch up. Reasonable chunks of CS theory, particularly round things like big-O notation, are very relevant if you want to be designing new systems, but, more critically, understanding of e.g. parallelism is vital even in a lot of maintenance work. If I’m going to be hiring someone who needs mentoring from a very low level, it’s going to be for something where the gulf between what we need from them and what they’re capable of is less great; having to spend lots of expensive engineer time teaching basic theory on the job makes for a big “no hire”.

            In fairness, hiring a graduate for something beyond routine maintenance of legacy systems is a pretty big vote of confidence in the grad…

            Reply
        6. Just Another Techie

          I really couldn’t disagree more.

          “Coders” who were self taught in their childhood or teens: In my experience, these people have self-taught a bunch of really bad habits. They don’t do clean testing. They check in bad code that breaks the build. They either don’t know how to use version control or they use it badly in ways that just might work when you’re a sole developer and your project is small, but just don’t work at all in large scale commercial projects. They often try to optimize their code for the entirely wrong results and don’t understand the constraints of working for a customer or for the consumer market. Also they don’t play well with others. They refuse to adhere to project management schedules. They don’t like taking direction, delegating, or collaborating. More often than not they come in with a sense of superiority over “lesser” engineers who had to be taught. And god forbid their manager or technical lead is one of those poor unfortunate troglodytes who started coding at the ancient age of nineteen or twenty, much less later in life. They’ll never respect you or take you seriously. In short, they are pain in the butt colleagues.

          CS majors at least usually have had at least some of the arrogant attitude trained out of them by their schooling. Very very few CS majors graduate still believing they are the hottest shit in the industry since Steve Jobs, thank god. Many of them have been forced to do groupwork so at least have a rudimentary understanding that other people exist and you need to be able to work with them. Sometimes they fall into the hole of trying to optimize the wrong thing (eg, not understanding that yes, outside of algo class, the scaling constants do matter. 700*O(n) might be worse than .0001*O(n^2) depending on your application and what size inputs you’re operating over), but at least they have demonstrated they are teachable. It’s great to look for college grads who have done more coding than what their degree required but it’s really important to look at what kind of coding they did. Were they going it on their own throwing out small simple iOS apps? Or did they work on a team or a large OSS project that would have developed real-world skills. I’d much rather hire someone who never wrote a line of code outside of a class assignment, but did tech & lighting for their school’s theater program for four years, than someone who wrote sixty one-and-done crappy apps in isolation. It’s way easier to teach someone smart from scratch than untrain years of bad habits, especially in young people who still think they know everything and are soooo much smarter than the greybeards. (This isn’t about Millenials or any specific generation. It was true of twenty two year olds when I was twenty two, and when my mentor was twenty two and going back to the days of the Romans, I’m sure.)

          I loooove boot camp graduates. Not only have they demonstrated that they are teachable, they’ve also demonstrated that they are willing to work hard and fast to learn new things. Often they have work experience outside college, so they’ve learned how to show up on time, how not to alienate their colleagues, and how to play well with others. Learning at bootcamp isn’t self-directed, but neither is learning in college, and I’d argue there are plenty of other ways to screen for the ability to learn without direction if that’s important for the role. At my company we do provide a great deal of mentoring and coaching for new hires, but the technology changes frequently and sometimes we find ourselves in a position where no one on staff knows $HOT_NEW_THING, so yes, being able to problem solve and figure things out without a teacher is vital. So we screen for that by asking good interview questions and digging into what else the candidate has done, beyond their technical training, however it was accomplished.

          One of the best engineers I know worked as a welder in an auto body shop for fifteen years after dropping out of high school. He got a GED, then did a programming boot camp, then started working at one of my former employers. Smart as a whip, super productive, dedicated, always met deadlines, wasn’t territorial about his code, was great about both delegating and being delegated to. I’d take one of him over ten self-taught teenage whizkids.

          Reply
          1. Quirk

            This may be a background thing.

            Much of my experience is low-level C++, much of it start-ups or fresh build, largely graphics early on, mission critical in more recent times. When it comes to understanding C++, the earlier you started, the better. It’s a huge language, nobody teaches it to any reasonably decent level, and just to be safe in it you need to be very actively involved in your own learning. On top of that, your knowledge needs to be actively updated as we move into C++11 and beyond. The people I see actively updating their skills off the clock are the same people who were enthused about learning at the beginning of their career. Beyond that, I don’t tend to run into tech leads and freelancers who haven’t significantly self-taught, the vast majority of them starting in their teens. I’ve hired people who were absolutely like your first paragraph, I completely agree it can happen, but I profoundly disagree that it’s faster to teach someone smart from scratch: there’s just way, way too much to learn – too much you need to know about how the machine works, how the OS works, the corners of the language, how to build a maintainable design, everything.

            I do agree you need people who write maintainable code, and this is not something taught in academia – one of the worst offenders I’ve ever worked with was an academic who taught a C class at an internationally renowned university – but obeying the coding standards and following the process is a very low bar. Eventually I’m going to want someone who can sort out race conditions without hand-holding. My confidence that the new hire without commercial experience will get there is far higher if there’s some combination of interest, off-the-clock experience and proven ability to deal with difficult abstract concepts.

            Reply
    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      Most people I know who reaped benefits from coding bootcamps were already in IT in a non-tech field or a dying tech field who went to upskill. This is in a large firm. I haven’t seen people come in from bootcamp alone.

      Something that’s respected well for upskilling are the online CS courses from Harvard or Stanford that offer certificates at the end. I’ve seen whole groups of employees work through one of those in a semester. Even Scratch.org and Code.org are great ways to pick up skills.

      Bootcamps may work for startups, smaller firms, or people who have some experience already. I don’t see them working in larger firms.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        I think is generally true, but it also depends on how large/traditional the firm may be. There are bootcamp grads working at Facebook, which is large (for a tech company). It also depends on the microenvironment of the team–like I don’t (yet) know of bootcamp grads working at NASA or something, but I don’t know why that shouldn’t be possible if there are hiring managers there who are flexible about backgrounds.

        Reply
    3. Jen

      The good thing about a full on cs degree is that you get exposed to a wide array on specialties (graphics, database,OS,etc), so it gives you a good dedicated time to see what that’s like. I would never have even considered my current field if not for having that one semester in it. I’d be concerned that with a bootcamp, you’re picking one on your own.

      That being said…perhaps look for a certificate program at a local university. We have a program here that I’d hire a person out of right on the spot.

      My 2 cents, btw, is that if you want to get into a field with good prospects, research business intelligence / data analytics / stats. We can’t find people fast enough for our open positions.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        My 2 cents, btw, is that if you want to get into a field with good prospects, research business intelligence / data analytics / stats. We can’t find people fast enough for our open positions.

        See folks? Math is cool!

        Reply
      2. KWu

        The exposure to different kinds of specialities is definitely a plus point on a more comprehensive program. Enough of that happens in a bootcamp to have a general sense when you’re getting that first job, and then further work experience can also bring further exposure to different kinds of topics. People switch jobs fairly frequently and quickly, so even if you pick something to focus on initially that you’re not that into, you can fix that soon enough. Plus new stuff is coming out all the time too.

        Reply
        1. Steven

          Look on coursera. Take some courses and find out if it’s right for you.

          There’s a handful of bootcamps for data science in the Google. You might have to relocate temporarily. But that just shows how serious you are, eh?

          Reply
    4. NACSAJACK

      I was going to respond and encourage Op#5 to get a CS Undergrad degree, but reading these success stories I am confused. Personally, I’ve never heard of coding camps outside of kids summer camp. What I would say is this: If you already have a BS, a coding camp or certificate might be a good choice to get you in the door. What has been done at my company is hire someone with a BS, CS or other, and put them through a Programmer Training Course. Several of our more successful employees have been through it, often with a degree other than CS. I’m going to look into coding camps to upskill, but then I have years of IT experience and the CS degree.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        There is a HUGE need for people who can write code. In the area where I live there are about 10,000 jobs that need to be filled and nowhere near that many people who have the skills to fill them. So there are boot camps for crash courses and online schools for people who want to develop skills and maybe are working full time already. One program in this area will pay your monthly membership for one of the online schools and when you think you’re ready, they’ll help you find a job. The money is really good for entry-level and it’s such high growth, it ‘s a good option for people just starting out and for people looking to change careers. The need is so great, they don’t have the option limit hiring to people who already have CS degrees and then are learning some extra skills.

        Reply
    5. Cucumberzucchini

      A good way to get your feet wet before committing to a Bootcamp would be do something like complete all the courses at CodeAcademy.com. I did one course earlier this year to brush up on JQuery after having taken a break from coding. I felt like it was a very good setup and FREE.

      If you get through CodeAcademy.com and find you enjoy it, you could move on to the Bootcamp. You could probably get through a bunch of Code Academy courses in a month if you used all your downtime for it.

      Reply
      1. DLB

        100% agree with this. Also, there are a few pay-sites too, like teamtreehouse.com and codeschool.com.
        My husband is a developer, and he is having a hard time hiring developers that have the willingness to learn quickly and also being open to constructive feedback from an experienced developer showing them how to do things better or more efficiently. What he’s found is that the eagerness to learn and solve problems is one of the most important things of being a developer, learning the code is second.

        Reply
    6. Prismatic Professional

      Adding to the anecdotes here-

      I didn’t even go to a coding boot camp, I was learning Python for fun (so I could program AI for dodge ball game) and posted about it on social media. I have a lot of friends in tech and got several calls within the month asking if I wanted to interview for X position. I thought it was hysterical! But it gives me hope and I use it when clients ask me if it is worth it (if they enjoy it of course…coding when you hate it would probably be a special kind of bad experience).

      Also – apparently companies are really keen on parselmouths around here. (They speak Python! *ba dum chi*)

      Reply
    7. Colleen

      I also have a friend who recently did this in New York City. She did an intensive program at the Flatiron School in mid-2015 and now she’s working at a start up.

      Reply
      1. writing from the Bronx

        General Assembly. Currently taking a Data Analytics course to become proficient in Excel, SQL and Tableau.

        Reply
      1. kristinyc

        I teach an email marketing class at General Assembly in NYC (my class isn’t coding, but a lot of my students have taken coding classes there). From what I’ve heard about their intensives (the 12 week, full time classes), you should come out of it ready for a junior developer job – IF you completely devote yourself to the work in the class. the classes are really intense though – you’re in class all day, every day, and then you have large homework assignments/outside work. If you’re looking for a career change, this would probably be a good place to start.

        Reply
        1. Blue_eyes

          Cool! I was actually at GA yesterday to have lunch with a student I know. It’s definitely very intense, but if you put a lot in to it, you will get a lot out of it.

          Reply
    1. Anon 1234

      In Canada there is a great non-profit group called “Ladies Learning Code”, which has locations in most of the big cities. An acquaintance took their bootcamp course after they were laid off from their construction job and were hired straight after finishing it up.

      It isn’t just for ladies and they don’t just offer coding classes–I once took a day long Photoshop class with them and I have a colleague whose daughter was in a camp over spring break and they learning coding/robotics. I highly recommend them!

      Reply
      1. Sally

        The Iron Yard has expanded across the country and internationally. I used to work for them and my husband and brother both attended. I left my position there to attend the class last fall and I’ll be graduating on Friday! I’m not sure there’s a better testimony than the fact that after working there for a long time, I sent two of my favorite people there, and then attended myself. Worth checking out.

        Reply
  3. CA Admin

    Coding boot camps are like any other type of program–some are good, some are bad, and most make inflated promises. Whether you can get a job afterwards is directly correlated to how good of a program it is.

    Some things to look for:
    1. What’s the total time commitment? If it seems lower than taking a couple of semesters in college, then it’s not actually enough to make you job ready.
    2. What’s the instruction/mentorship setup like? And what are those instructors’ qualifications? The more one-on-one attention you get from an actual professional, the better you’ll do.
    3. What are employment rates 30, 60, 90, 180 days after graduation? Real employment rates, not just the fluff they use in their marketing. Try to suss that out.

    Doing this is difficult and expensive. No good program is going to be easy, especially since they’re so accelerated. They’re also not cheap. And few have a part time option, so you have to quit your job in the meantime, while paying tuition.

    The best one I’ve run across is Bloc (full disclosure: my husband is affiliated with them, but he attended a different boot camp that he wouldn’t recommend and a lot of his friends have jobs in the space). They’re online, allow part time study, and pair you with real mentors.

    Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. Purple Dragon

      I checked out Bloc – it looks pretty good. I wish it was around 20 years ago when I did my course.

      All I need to do now is find one that does ABAP :)

      Reply
      1. Jen RO

        My boyfriend works at SAP and they have a bootcamp-type program ran by the company that basically takes young grads and teaches them ABAP. I don’t know if it’s just a local thing or if it’s worldwide, though (and maybe you are not interested in actually working for SAP-the-company, of course!).

        Reply
        1. hamster

          I know the program, it’s a good and smart one. I actually did it and decide not to quit my job, just retain the info for myself. Anyway i m on the mentality that you have to pay me to learn the job not the otherway around. But i might have been just fortunate by the market

          Reply
    2. Erik

      Excellent summary. I’ve seen a very mixed bag, as there are many out there that are just looking to grab money from people. If you can do a part-time option then do it.

      Community college or other free online classes through Coursera or Udacity are also a great place to start.

      Reply
      1. bad at online naming

        Software developer here!

        I see there are a lot of people commenting very good things. I searched for Coursera and Udacity to see if they’d been mentioned a bunch, and only found this comment.

        Absolutely the best thing I think for anyone considering switching to any form of software development: start free! Don’t spend $1000s or $10000 on a bootcamp when you can see if you like programming at all for $0 (if you already have full access to a computer and the internet). There are lots of different resources: coursera, udacity, kahn academy, open lectures through stanford, mit, etc.

        Granted these are also a mixed bag, and there might be programming you love but the intro classes aren’t getting there. But if you do enjoy it, even picking up the simplest skills for free can save you money down the line – or allow you to nail a class you pay the big bucks for later, if that’s the route you want to go.

        Reply
        1. hamster

          Coursera is great! Mit has classes on CS on video, for free! CodeAcademy is another good resource for breaking in this thing.

          Reply
    3. AcademiaNut

      That’s a good summary.

      I think it’s also quite important to realistically think about how intensely you can study, and how many hours a day you are able and willing to devote to a boot camp. If you have family commitments, for example, that’s going to subtract from the every waking hour devotion that an intense program may demand. When I was 20, I could have done a 10 week nothing-but-work schedule on a diet of fast food, snacks and caffeine. Now, not so much.

      If you want to get your feet wet without quitting your job, check out some of the on-line learning options. If you’re willing to devote an hour an evening during the week, and some concentrated time on the weekends, you can get a taste of programming study without losing your income. I’d recommend this particularly if you have little experience with coding, but have good study habits – not everyone likes programming.

      I would say that going back for a second bachelor’s degree is not a good idea, unless you happen to be independently wealthy and aren’t worried about money – the money/time cost is just too high for what you’ll get.

      I’m not sure how focussed coding boot camps are for type of programming – whether they cover general topics, or focus on something like App development, or web development.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        re: “how focussed coding boot camps are for type of programming” it depends on the bootcamp, but you can usually get a rough sense of what their curriculum is like by talking to recent students, looking at the kinds of projects they’ve built, and even sometimes just asking the program for more detail (don’t just go by the list of technologies on their sites, you might be swayed by buzzwords then). You definitely want exposure to data structure and algorithms, versus just learning how to use a framework to generate a web app that you may not really understand how it works underneath.

        Reply
    4. Wanna-Alp

      Having taught programming, I want to emphasise the bit about it being important to be able to get one-on-one help. When programming everyone, no matter what their level of experience, has difficulties making the computer do what you want it to. When you’re starting out to learn to code, it is very normal to get stuck and then not be able to figure out what to do next, maybe even for hours or days.

      With experience comes more ways to get yourself unstuck, but initially, you need access to someone who can look at your exact circumstances, and point you in the right direction. This is why you need reasonably-prompt access to someone knowledgeable who can help. Google can try its best, but it doesn’t know your particular situation any more than what you type into the search box, and it can’t help every time.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        Yes, this!! And why I think “entirely self-directed” and “wanted a bit of help to kickstart learning” shouldn’t be a significant difference for eventual success. The instructors I had were amazing at seeing where my mental model was stuck or faulty, just based on the kinds of questions I was asking or the errors I was getting, even if I wasn’t directly asking about the real problem. I think it’s very hard to remember how difficult it is to learn something when you don’t even have the vocabulary for describing what your problem is that you’re trying to get help on–since you don’t know!

        Reply
    5. Blue_eyes

      Great points. My husband is doing a web dev boot camp right now, and these are some of the things he considered. His program is about as long as a semester of college study, but he’s in class all day 9-5 and has homework at night. So the amount of time he’s putting in is at least equivalent to one year of college or grad school study. It’s not cheap, but it is about the same price as one semester of a private university, so it is considerably less expensive than going to grad school.

      Reply
      1. Alston

        How much homework does he end up having?

        Also there are boot camps you don’t pay up front for. My friend just finished one you had to apply for (he taught himself some programming solo to get into it), you don’t pay up front, but they take a percentage of your income for the first year after you graduate (or something) and get your first dev job. That model seems to get people who already have some amount aptitude , and encourages the program to make sure they help people learn enough to get a high paying job post camp.

        Reply
        1. Blue_eyes

          He usually spends about 1-3 hours doing homework each night, and more on the weekends. But he finishes faster than many of his classmates, so some people are spending at least 3 hours every night.

          His program runs on more of a traditional tuition model. The downside of this model is that there are some people in the class who don’t have a great aptitude for coding. The upside is that pretty much anyone (who can afford it) can try it without having to know any coding to start. The program also needs to keep up it’s job placement rates because students will not be willing to pay the (not insignificant) tuition without having a reasonably good chance at a job afterwards.

          Reply
    6. SanguineAspect

      This is a great list of things. I wouldn’t advise going into these programs lightly. It’s NOT a magic pill and requires a lot of work both in and outside of the teaching environment. You’ve got to be pretty comfortable taking information and learning more on your own (this is something you’ll need to do anyway as a developer–technology is always evolving).

      I have NOT attended one of these, but I know several people who have and are now in development jobs. We’ve also hired 3 people in the last 6 months at my current job from one of these programs (one who was working in a warehouse for many years before he attended the program). We had ZERO expectations that they had all of the stuff they’d need to hit the ground running, but what they DID have was the ability and hunger to learn more on their own, and the desire to really prove themselves and kick ass in their roles. And because they’ve all been in the work force before, you don’t have to worry about the “learning professional ropes” stuff you’ve got with new grads. All in all, pretty happy with our choices.

      Reply
    1. Not Gloria, A.A., B.S.

      The first thing I did was open the Indeed app on my phone and made sure my resume was set to private.

      Reply
  4. OPfor#2

    Thank you! I really like the phrasing as well. If there are any other suggestions on this front I’d definitely welcome them – especially from people in a similar position (basically networked into a position). I’ve never gracefully negotiated a salary offer before (there was that one job in my early 20’s that lasted a month but let’s not go there) so I’m a little green on this front. I did have my subsequent interview this week with his boss (no prior connection), and it went very well so if the job gods are willing any advice would be super timely.

    Reply
    1. nofelix

      Lead with the tone you’d like the negotiations to have – light, breezy, friendly. If you start by seeming nervous or confrontational then they’ll likely follow suit and it’ll be more difficult. Good research can help you feel comfortable that you’re not asking for anything outrageous.

      Reply
    2. A Jane

      Was in the same position a couple of years ago, and I was uncertain how to go about negotiating since the hiring manager was recruiting me. My boss said the same thing about being a little flexible, but a good part of it was that he was new-ish to the company, so he was balancing between bringing in me at a good rate and discussing with his boss with increase in salary offer.

      Reply
    3. KWu

      Maybe something along the lines of, “hey, so, I’ve read a bit about how women don’t negotiate their salaries enough so I wanted to bring up the topic and try to do my part. I trust that you’re looking out for me, so maybe could you tell me a bit more about how offers are put together at this company? Is it appropriate to ask for more? I certainly wouldn’t want to leave you in a tough spot, and I’m very excited about this opportunity! But of course, everyone appreciates having a higher salary if they can :)” so the key points are like:
      1. Frame it as advice you’ve received from other people (so, not because you are Ms. Greedy)
      2. Say you’re doing this to help other people (unconscious bias can negatively impact women who are seen as advocating only for themselves, but it goes over better when it’s to help other people)
      3. Frame your direct question as “learning more about how this particular company works”
      4. Reaffirm your relationship with the individual, expressing that you can see their side and want to help them too, and that you value their judgment
      5. Reiterating enthusiasm for the role
      6. Subtle reminder that this is a normal thing to do

      After all that, you can see what the response is like, judging how enthusiastic/supportive/transparent/honest it is, and then decide from there whether you want to put in a specific higher number, or you’re happy with the situation as it is, or you should be more careful from now on if the hiring manager reacts poorly to even the slightest questioning of their motives.

      Good luck!! Would be great to get an update once you’re through, I love the update posts from letter writers and tore through the entire archive of them over the holidays :)

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Hmmm, it strikes me as overly apologetic (which, interestingly, is something that women also tend to do, especially when advocating for themselves). All that caveating makes it too easy for the boss to just say, “no, this is the best I can do.” I’d say keep it simple and straightforward — “can you get up to $X?”

        Reply
        1. KWu

          It is definitely a lot softened from how straightforward I would want interactions like that to be if I were in charge of the universe, but because OPfor#2 doesn’t seem to already have full confidence that it would be ok to continue to ask for more, despite her rapport and previous mentoring relationship with the hiring manager, I think this is safer if a high priority is maintaining a good relationship with this person. It’s wordier, for sure, but intent still seems to be clear, hopefully. It’s certainly a legitimate set of priorities to go for brevity, though.

          Ideally the previous relationship would carry over into this new environment, but I think you’d need to have this pattern of following an old boss around to multiple new work environments to really be able to trust that assumption. OPfor#2 will have to exercise her own judgment for this, she knows best.

          Reply
          1. Another woman struggling with salary discussions

            I sort of agree with this. As I mentioned in my comment, recently had a situation where I discussed compensation with a mentor who I’d be working for, and things didn’t go well, and I immediately regretted it – in retrospect, I value the mentoring relationship so so so much more than salary. That said, my head tells me it’s always best to put yourself first and not to shy away from such questions. I think it’s a really delicate balance of using the right tone, knowing who you’re talking to and how he’s likely to react, and not getting emotional if the wrong answer comes along. Salary is a touchy subject.

            Reply
            1. KWu

              It is best to put yourself first when it comes to advocating for yourself–but that doesn’t always mean trying to get the highest salary in the short-term. It makes sense to value that mentoring relationship because you’re getting lots of intangible benefits out of it that may some day result in higher compensation/greater general satisfaction with work, less so if it’s that you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. So you make choices based on your priorities and then figure out what tactics might be most effective for achieving your goals.

              Reply
    4. Janice in Accounting

      I had nearly this exact scenario happen about a year ago, only I was being hired by a former coworker (who is now my boss). I had been upfront about the salary range I wanted, and when he came back with a number at the low end I said, “Is there a way we can get the salary up to X?” He went back to his boss, and then offered me the same salary as before plus a signing bonus (which together equaled X). It wasn’t ideal but I’m not miserable every minute of every day like I was at my last job, so I think it worked out nicely!

      It was a weird negotiation since we knew each other pretty well already, and I felt like we were both carefully walking that line between casual and formal. Good luck to you!

      Reply
    5. Another woman struggling with salary discussions

      I’m so glad you asked this question as it hits close to home for me, given an encounter I recently had.

      I have worked on a lot of projects with a more senior colleague who I consider a mentor, and he’s consistently advocated for me, given me great advice, taught me to be better at my job, etc, etc. Recently, he approached me about an opportunity to move into his department full-time because he had been impressed with my work, and there was an opening. It was billed as a lateral move, but I would be filling the role of someone with a higher job title and more experience. I’ve read all the stuff about women not asking for promotions/raises, and I didn’t want to be that girl, so I asked him whether there would be a salary increase. Unfortunately, I really caught him off guard, the answer was no, and I got somewhat hostile and conversation didn’t go well. I was really upset about this, because I was afraid I’d crossed a line, that I may have severed our great mentoring relationship, and that maybe he thought I was taking advantage of our friendship to try to get a raise or promotion I didn’t deserve.

      Later, I ended up apologizing for my tone – but not for the question itself – and luckily we got past the awkwardness and he’s still a mentor. Also, my previous boss, who’s in charge of this year’s review, coincidentally has let me know that he’ll be recommending me for promotion soon.

      To be totally honest, I really wish I hadn’t said anything and had just waited and trusted that the people I work with have my best interest in mind. I still feel embarrassed about that conversation. But at the same time, I know I shouldn’t be ashamed of asking and that my question was reasonable. Stuff like this is harder than it should be!

      Long story short, if you decide to negotiate, I recommend being really careful about the tone of the conversation and not to get emotional or angry – even if you don’t think you will, you might, in the moment.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        You definitely should not be ashamed of asking! It sounds like you could’ve handled the initiation of that conversation and result of it better, but only implicitly trusting that other people will have your best interest in mind isn’t enough either because realistically, there will be conflicts with what those folks might want for themselves, or want for other people. You are the person most motivated to see your best interest happen, and people who look down on you for taking the slightest actions towards your goals are not people you’d be able to trust all that much anyway.

        Reply
  5. jamlady

    Wait – I keep my resume updated on the regular even when I’m not looking for another job. Did OP1 get a hit because this person reached out somehow like she’s actively seeking or just because she updated her resume? Because maybe that’s all it was – a resume update.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      I do that too. Thanks to unexpected layoffs, I’m paranoid about more, and when I start a new job, I always update as I’m learning. If my duties alter in any significant way or I take on new responsibilities, I note it. It’s easier than trying to remember what I did after the fact.

      I’m probably going to have to do it again, as my job is changing soon.

      Reply
  6. Anon Accountant

    Would a coding boot camp help or would classes at a community college (if that’s an option) help OP5? Maybe not another degree but a few evening or online classes?

    Reply
    1. KWu

      A lot of people I know started off testing the waters with community college classes, so that’s certainly a good start! The bootcamp environment is good if you do better with that intensive learning environment and if the program can offer a good hiring network.

      Reply
    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      Two advantages of community college classes, in my experience:

      – slower pace, so easier to juggle with full time work (no picnic still, but a bit easier)
      – tuition reimbursement!

      No reimbursement for coding bootcamps, and the hours can drain your weekends and other free time. It’s hella intense.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        One disadvantage to them though: they’re so impacted and full (at least in my state) that you may not be able to get into even the online CC classes.

        Reply
    3. Anna

      There’s also online schools that are go at your own pace and are relatively inexpensive. Treehouse is one and OneMonth, I think. Treehouse is a $25 monthly fee.

      Reply
    4. Cucumberzucchini

      I’m not super impressed with the instruction colleges give in programming/coding. You’re much better off taking free online classes to get started and then going into a Bootcamp program if you like it/show an aptitude for it.

      I’ve hired web-designers/developers and most of them coming out of school learned how to do things completely wrong.

      The one exception was the person who was heavily self-taught and earned a degree in tandem. The majority of their skills came from the self-learning not from the Bachelors program.

      Reply
  7. SusieSnowflake

    #5, my company hired several people from a womens-only coding bootcamp (hackbright). As far as I know, neither of the people I know personally were CS majors and got their only coding chops through this bootcamp. I’d say as long as the bootcamp is well-known or respected among hiring managers, definitely worth it.

    Reply
  8. Stephanie

    #5: I always viewed these as a type of trade school, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You wouldn’t get as theoretical as you would with a CS degree, but I’d imagine there are plenty of coding jobs that don’t necessarily require you to have deep understanding of machine learning and just need someone who can program competently in a certain language.

    It sounds like these programs are becoming more common, so the credential/course might be less valuable now. Just do your due diligence before you enroll.

    Reply
  9. KWu

    LW#5: I am a coding bootcamp success story!

    tl;dr is you should spend $10 and a couple hours reading this ebook written by a good friend of mine: http://codeschoolbook.com/ (disclosure: I helped review some of the content and am listed in there as a mentor, I think, but I’m not getting any commission from her sales)

    I strongly agree with Alison that intense, hands-on experience is almost always better than another degree, particularly in a field like computer programming when the barriers to figuring out whether you like doing that kind of work are relatively low, with a computer and an internet connection. More importantly, you can figure out whether you enjoy *getting better at that skill* (along with not hating the feeling of struggling with your current state of lacking knowledge and skill, at least not to the point of feeling completely paralyzed by it). For more on this, see this blog post I wrote: http://kwugirl.blogspot.com/2015/05/how-do-you-know-if-you-would-like.html

    What I’m told about computer science degrees is that they’re good if you want to get into computer science theory or research, but most undergrad programs don’t necessarily have all that much more hands-on training in coding. Since it’s so commonly accepted to learn on the job as a programmer, I think the most sensible goal is to get yourself into a full-time job doing that as soon as possible, so you can be paid by someone else while you’re learning.

    For me, there were a variety of factors that made that situation work out really well for me–less to do with my undergraduate degree (it was in Biology) but more to do with
    – my related prior work experience: technical support, comfort with navigating lack of structure and ambiguity in typical tech culture
    – the particular program I chose and its instructions style, student community, and hiring partner company network
    – my timing: I graduated almost 3 years ago now, when there were fewer bootcamps, and there are many programs out there now charging a lot of money, when there has also been backlash against that educational path (see some of my thoughts on this here: http://kwugirl.blogspot.com/2015/10/coding-academies-are-not-nonsense-for.html)

    It would also be helpful to perhaps more deeply examine why you think you’ll never be a high performer at your current job and what’s different about the expectations in software development. At one point, my job rolled up into a sales organization, and it turns out I’m a pretty terrible salesperson—when a client expressed disinterest in something I was supposed to pitch to them, I would just be like, “ok sure!” rather than sticking it out to find an effective way to sell that product to them. Relative to most successful salespeople, I’m also much more introverted and socially awkward (almost *all* of my first few performance reviews had “communicate more effectively” as an Area For Development). I put a lot of effort into trying to improve in those areas, but I probably would never catch up the people that are more naturally talented—yet once I switched into the engineering world, relatively speaking I am really good at certain kinds of work that many other software engineers are not, and I enjoy the puzzle in the core work too, it’s really fun for me. So I have certain disadvantages compared to those from a more “traditional” path, but I also have other relative strengths.

    In general, many more people work as programmers without having earned C.S. degrees than most people expect, I think. So first, test out your hypothesis that this is a career path you want to pursue by using some of the free materials online (http://carlcheo.com/startcoding), find some local tech meetups to attend and start to get to know people there, and then evaluate what methods will best get you to where you want to be (keep your current day job and study/build projects on your own, get a related job like technical support and learn about tech businesses from there, part-time code schools, online code schools, in-person intensive bootcamps, etc.)

    Reply
    1. Treena

      “comfort with navigating lack of structure and ambiguity in typical tech culture”

      This is what I think a lot of people don’t consider nearly enough. There is often no hand-holding, or any guidance for that matter in the vast majority of tech companies. It’s a serious shock to a lot of people.

      This question is an excellent illustration of this.
      http://www.askamanager.org/2015/10/my-boss-turns-it-into-an-ordeal-every-time-i-ask-him-a-question.html

      Reply
  10. Anonymous Educator

    I used to work for a recruiting firm, and we had candidates sign up all the time that were “just seeing what’s out there.” They’d either tell us that explicitly, or we would just have a hunch. If you genuinely believe your employee is happy where she is, it’s very possible she’s one of these. Sometimes people are just curious. They aren’t really intent on leaving—just putting out feelers. You should still take Alison’s advice—if this person is a valued employee, start taking stock of what might solidify retention.

    Reply
    1. Noah

      It can take a long time to find something too. I’m always searching for a new job because finding the right one can take awhile. I’m content and happy in the role I’m in now, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider a higher paying one with a title bump either.

      Reply
          1. Mike C.

            Yep, though my QA scope deals with the manufacturing/final assembly of the aircraft rather than ongoing flight operations. FOQA sounds rather interesting though!

            Reply
        1. Noah

          Yes I do work in aviation safety, although FOQA is not my strong suit. I’m not a pilot so I’ve always been more involved on the stations, inflight, and dispatch side of things. I helped implement FOQA at a smaller air carrier, but we used an outside company for the FDM and analysis piece because there was no one in house with enough expertise.

          Reply
    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      I’ve sometimes had that feeling of “I really like my job, but I feel like I could be getting better pay/hours/whatever if I looked around”. So I look around, and so far I haven’t found anything better (a few things that looked equal to, but then it’s frying pan to fire, so I’d rather stick with what I know) which quietens the part of my brain going “move on!”

      So “I was just looking round because [whatever reason]” is also entirely possible, I agree.

      Reply
  11. The Bimmer Guy

    Re #5: I cut my teeth as a web designer & developer by following YouTube and blog-based tutorials, and eventually doing a few months of sites like Lynda.com and Treehouse.com. With those, I was able to create a portfolio that included number of “demo” projects to showcase my knowledge, and that helped me get my first job. Ostensibly, a coding bootcamp would give you the same result, but in a more-structured manner. I think you could definitely find a job that way in this day and age…but I wouldn’t simply rely on the program to network me with potential employers.

    Reply
    1. Former Cable Rep

      I’m taking several free and a few $10 web development courses at Udemy to do better at personal projects. It’s a good way to throw yourself into something to see if you even like doing it without a huge investment. The quality of what you get is dependent on the person writing the course, but there’s usually several different courses in any one subject to choose from and you can get feedback from the course creators. And they always have some sort of coupon or deal going, which is nice. After you do some projects on your own, you’re more likely to know if a boot camp is going to get you where you want to be versus the time and money investment it would take.

      Reply
    2. SystemsLady

      Especially since OP doesn’t indicate that have any experience with programming at all, I think online study should be their first step.

      If OP ends up absolutely hating programming, the boot camp will end up having been a huge mistake. But if they don’t, it is probably a very good idea.

      That being said, you don’t really need to go that far into learning to program to see if you like it. Take a couple lessons in a couple languages, and if you quickly find you like the process of solving problems in code, go give the boot camp a shot!

      Reply
    3. Anna

      Thank you for mentioning Treehouse.com. They’re local and are working with one of the WIOA organizations to help get people trained in coding and placed in jobs. There is such a high demand for coders right now.

      Reply
  12. Richard

    #1 – Sometimes, recruiters get resumes or create them from unlikely places, and convey them without approval. So don’t automatically assume they’re right.

    #5 – I don’t see much value from a second undergraduate degree in CS. If you already have a single undergraduate degree, I’d look at a masters or certificate program if you’re thinking about formal education. Non-formal education – meetups, coding camps, getting involved in open source programs, starting up some independent coding projects and putting them on github, are all good.

    The only place where I’d look at a second undergrad degree is in pure engineering disciplines – like electrical engineering or mechanical engineering – where you really need a full four years to get the full scientific background. CS, even though it’s sometimes taught in an engineering school, isn’t really the same kind of thing, especially if you’re thinking in terms of being a coder.

    Reply
    1. eng manager

      Hm, I have a slight quibble with that. I took physics and advanced stats to support my CS degree (in an engineering school)… and there is so much theory and basic understanding that a master’s student would need to really succeed, that someone with, say, an English BA may not have had any exposure to.

      Reply
      1. Molly 2

        If you have an English BA and want a Masters in Engineering, you would want to take the master’s program undergrad-level pre-reqs as a non-degree student, then apply to the master’s program. Much more cost-effective than a second undergrad degree.

        Reply
    2. JeJe

      There are graduate programs that you can get into without a CS degree. But, you will basically be repeating all the undergrad requirements for CS major requirements for before you’re allowed to take any grad course.

      Reply
  13. eng manager

    #5: As someone who not only has spent 15+ years as an engineer, but is also a manager who does a great deal of hiring, I can tell you wrt coding bootcamps: If you’re in the Bay Area, use a bootcamp that has some established relationships with companies already. Most of the startups I know/have worked for are looking to hire high-impact folk, because they are constrained by funding, so getting an in to those places as a new bootcamp grad will most likely not happen because you’ll be out-skilled by the rest of the people they’re interviewing (if they show any interest in your resume whatsoever to start).

    However, I know that companies like SurveyMonkey and the like actually have relationships with certain bootcamps and actively hire directly out of them. Then, you can get more legitimate experience that you can leverage into roles at other companies more easily.

    If you have the aptitude and interest in programming, I think that bootcamps are a great way to show you that it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it appears to people who don’t do it. There will be GIGANTIC gaps in your knowledge (I will bet money that DBC graduates can’t answer data structure and algorithm interview questions straight out of bootcamp, and how many programs go over bigO?) but you will know how to search for solutions and generally how to go about problem solving, and you’ll be able to learn from your peers as you take jobs.

    I am not sure if this is helpful, hopefully it is!

    Reply
    1. Mark in Cali

      What are your thoughts on a 30 year old theatre major who’s been working in a business role for 4 years now returning to school online to get a second bachelor’s in electrical engineering? Where do you see someone like me fitting in when lots of engineering jobs require a background in engineering including internships? I’m excited about changing my career direction, but I’m also worried that I’m behind the curve though I think I’ll have a leg up with over 6 years of program management experience where I work closely with engineers by the time I graduate.

      I’d appreciate your thoughts!

      Reply
      1. katamia

        I’ve wondered about this sort of thing too. Not specifically for CS (very much not for me), but STEM in general seem to require more schooling/training than the humanities, which is what my background is in. It seems like it’s harder to get into a STEM-type field if you don’t know what you want to do when you first go to college. Maybe they’re better at telling teenagers that they should have some ideas now than they were in my day (I’m around your age and all I ever heard was “Go to college and get a degree in anything and you’ll be fine”–such a lie), but I wish there were more ways to get into it for people who study other things first because either they think they want to do something else or they don’t know what they want to do and are therefore unwilling to commit to a more intense program of study when they’re not sure it’s where they want to go, even though (as in my case) they might be very good at it.

        Reply
        1. Mark in Cali

          I have to keep reminding myself that I have many more working years ahead of myself to keep my chin up. That said there must be room for change! At the same time, as I mentioned above, I worry where I might fit in when the jobs for people my age in STEM tend to be for experienced folks in that field and the entry level jobs are gladly given to the 22 year old fresh faced college grad.

          Reply
          1. Poohbear McGriddles

            I started my engineering career at 30, so you’re not too far off. I’d think six years of program management experience would be a huge plus, especially working directly with engineers (probably better than any internship, IMO). You may gravitate towards a “big picture” project engineering role, rather than a design engineering role – and that’s okay since both are essential. A smaller organization that doesn’t hire masses of new grads every year might also be a better fit, since they will focus on quality and not quantity when it comes to filling entry level roles.
            I’m a little leery of the online EE degrees, mainly because I learned so much in the labs when I was in school. I’m not saying the online programs are bad, I just don’t know how they could replicate that experience.

            Reply
            1. Mark in Cali

              Believe me, I’m weary myself, but I’m not sure of another option aside from quitting my (nicely salaried and benefited) full time job. So far I’ve had one lab course where we had to order supplies (breadboard, jumper cables, resistors, capacitors) and built basic circuits and tested with a DMM.

              At this point though I’m catching up on all the math (calc I and II this semester), but it will be telling to see how the future labs will go.

              Would love to hear your story about starting engineering at 30 and your thoughts on how to get the degree while not going online. I have a feeling most of the classes I would need to enroll in would be scheduled during my 9-5 job at a local university.

              Reply
              1. Poohbear McGriddles

                I went back to school (undergrad and grad) after 4 years in the military. My school was somewhat of a “commuter” school, with plenty of non-traditional students. I had classmates as old as 50. Many classes were offered in the evenings (although not all). This allowed some students to have a regular day job and still finish their degree, although it usually took longer.
                Whether that’s doable in your area depends on what the local schools are like. Could be that the online degree is the better route. The convenience and ability to finish sooner may outweigh the lack of hands-on work in the labs. Just be sure that the program is ABET-accredited.

                Reply
                1. Foxtrot

                  For what it’s worth, I’m about to finish my degree in mechanical engineering after going back to school late and taking a lot of detours too. If you can take night classes or go to community college first, I would. All of my classmates got their jobs from the career fairs at school. Online applications seem to be an internet black hole.

        2. CheeryO

          Yeah, it’s tough not only because of the additional classes (I graduated with almost 150 credit hours in an “easy” engineering major, whereas most programs were closer to the 120 credit hour minimum for a B.A./B.S.), but because so many classes are prerequisites for other classes, so you end up on a timeline with very little wiggle room.

          FWIW, I know quite a few people who went back to school full-time for STEM degrees later in life! I imagine they might have felt out of place in the beginning, but I know I never thought anything of it (except maybe that I was impressed that they were willing to commit to years of full-time schooling to change career paths).

          Reply
          1. CheeryO

            And of course this is very anecdotal, but the handful of people who I am thinking about did end up getting good entry-level jobs after we graduated.

            Reply
          2. katamia

            At this point, I’m not willing to do a STEM degree unless I’m confident that it’ll actually be worth the massive time, energy, and money investments. So it probably won’t happen, especially since, as Mark in Cali points out, I’d be competing against new grads when I’d be in my 30s (and I doubt my previous work experience would count for much). I also wouldn’t want to get halfway or all the way through the degree only to either realize I didn’t want to do it after all or have the market for whatever I would be going into tank. (Having graduated right at the start of the recession, I may be more sensitive to this possibility than people in other age groups.)

            Reply
        3. KWu

          One of the things in life that I am a huge evangelist for is that just because you didn’t choose to study a particular field when you were 18 doesn’t mean you can never get in! All the years you spent doing something other than the new thing will still have given you transferrable skills, if you spend some effort figuring out how to apply them to a new industry. The only real barriers should perhaps be if, say, you want to become a STEM professor, then time-wise you might not be able to make up the delay, but for merely working in a new field…it’s worth considering. There will be different kinds of challenges for you, and lots of people are bad at being supportive or encouraging, but it’s not impossible.

          Reply
          1. katamia

            At least for humanities, I agree with you–ironically, I didn’t get an English degree because everyone said they were useless, but people in my line of work generally do have English degrees, and I’m 99% sure there were jobs I wasn’t considered for solely because my degree is in something else. But I knew how to sort of get around that–I took jobs that were sort of on the side of it and gradually built up the kind of experience I needed to get the jobs I wanted. So in theory, yeah, I guess it could be possible to do that with a more STEM-oriented career.

            But I had/have lots of friends and family in this industry, so I knew where all the back doors were. I have no family and few friends in STEM (and a lot of my “STEM” friends are actually math and science teachers, which I have no interest in becoming), and it’s hard to know where to start because from outside, except in computers/tech (which I definitely don’t have the right temperament for), the emphasis on having the right kind of degree appears to be much stronger. That perception may be inaccurate, but I definitely don’t feel like I have enough information or even know what the best places to get the kind of information I feel like I need are.

            Actually, come to think of it, it might be an interesting project for someone (okay, for me, hehe) to create some sort of resource database for the most accurate/up to date information about how to get into different careers for career changers.

            Reply
      2. Stephanie

        Caveats: I don’t do any hiring directly and this all anecdotal.

        I’ve met a couple of people who got second bachelor degrees in EE and were successful. They had similar stories to yours–worked in non-technical roles (one was a social worker, another was in banking) and went back to undergrad full-time. I believe it’s pretty common at my local university (a 50,000+ state school).

        If it was something you really wanted to do, I would go for it. There might be a handful of companies that will hire self-taught engineers (I think mine might), but the vast, vast majority of jobs I see require a degree and possibly certification (via the FE and PE). I’d guess you’d start out entry-level or close t0 entry-level. I’d guess your knowledge level would be the same, but you’d get how to work in an office more than your cohort. You also wouldn’t want to make it sound like you expect to suddenly become a manager ahead of schedule because of your prior experience. In an interview, I would emphasize that you’re definite about changing careers and ok with working with (and possibly being managed by) people younger than you.

        That being said, leaving your job to go back to college for four to five years would be a huge undertaking and opportunity cost, so make sure it’s something you really want to do. Additionally, I don’t think you can get federal loans for a second bachelors degree, so take that into account.

        Offhand, I know Boston University has a program called LEAP which is geared toward career changers. Good luck!

        Reply
        1. Just Another Techie

          It’s also possible to go into a master’s program, part-time, in EE, without an undergrad degree in a related field. The path to do that is take your pre-reqs (calc, physics, intro circuits, electricity and magnetism, probability, linear algebra) at a community college or other cheap local option. Then find an MSEE program that has a non-thesis degree option (there are lots). Your first year will be effing hard, you probably won’t get tuition assistance or a stipend, and you’ll feel overwhelmed by your classmates who took an undergrad degree in EE, but it can be done if you’re smart, work hard, and know when to ask for help. (When I was in grad school I had two classmates who were on this path. One had a law degree and the other was a former priest.) The benefits of doing an MSEE instead of a BSEE is that in an MSEE program you have more of a chance of your classmates being grownups who have been in the workforce for a while (my program, at a private R1 university, was about a third working professionals getting an MS part time and two thirds kids fresh out of undergrad who went straight into grad school and were probably going to continue with a PhD). It’s easier to form study groups with people who are at the same stage of life you are, and waaay easier to feel socially connected to your classmates than if you’re the only guy in class who has to worry about making rent or filing your taxes or whatever other commitments you have.

          Also depending on what branch of electrical engineering you’re interested in you might not need PE certification. (FE is a precursor to PE, fwiw). You only need a PE if you’re going to be working on power plants or public works or other things that might kill humans if they fail. You don’t need a PE at all to, for example, design satellites. Or to design consumer electronic products. Or to work on internet routing hardware. I could keep going with examples but you get the picture.

          Reply
          1. Mark in Cali

            I did see one of these programs in my location but I was quite weary. I had never heard of an MSE program accepting a theatre major and my engineering friends raised eyebrows. I felt the BSE was a better option for me.

            Reply
            1. Just Another Techie

              It’s totally up to you what you think will work best for your goals. I just want to reassure you though that lots of MSE programs take students who don’t have a bachelors in a STEM field. You do absolutely have to have a record of taking and getting good grades in the pre-req classes though. I know a bunch of universities in my area — even big name elite private schools — will let you register as a “special” student to take undergrad level classes without being in a full time degree program, and there’s always community colleges and the like.

              Reply
              1. Mark in Cali

                I appreciate this. It’s given me pause to reconsider my path. I just got A’s in Algebra and Precalc last semester and I’m on to Calc I and II this semester. If I do well on those I may look into MSE programs based on your advice here. Thanks! I wish there were ways to keep in touch on here . . . would love to be able to check in with you again in the future!

                Reply
      3. Meg Murry

        If you are working closely with engineers while you are in school, do you think you could find a job that is more engineering-adjacent once you are partway though school? Are you thinking of doing something theater-related with that EE degree (for instance, designing lighting systems or soundboards for theaters?)

        My concern would be that online degrees don’t get you the networking opportunities that regular degrees do, and the piece of paper saying you have an EE degree alone won’t overcome that.

        Would your program management experience translate into project management? You might want to look into that first, as project management skills translate into lots of engineering related jobs.

        Also, have you talked to any of the engineers you work with about this plan? Is the online degree program accredited? Does it have a good reputation amongst engineers? In my engineering field, ABET accreditation is what you want/need, not sure about for EE.

        Reply
        1. Mark in Cali

          Thanks! Good questions. I have a good job with an electric utility where I’m surrounded by engineers. I have an eye out for non-technical roles that work closer with EEs (right now I work with lots of MEs). I’ve talked to a few about my path and they are generally supportive. Project management is exactly where I was thinking of heading!

          I am also willing to say I’m doing ASU online so it is accredited. The program is still young though and they don’t have any graduates from the program yet, as far as I understand. I wish I could do full time school, but I think my continued work experience is valuable, and the undergrad schedule at a local university wouldn’t work with a full time work schedule like mine. Plus work pays $5000 a year of my tuition.

          Reply
          1. Hillary

            You sound a lot like one of my former coworkers (I’m an MBA, but I joke that one of my soft skills is my ability to translate engineer). He landed in project management and mostly likes it.

            If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to talk to your manager about your interests. A lot of what you’ve described is exactly what my local big power company is looking for in new non-line employees, especially your combination of interests and soft skills. There might be a growth path there.

            Reply
          2. Meg Murry

            FYI, you might want to start with classes in project management and possibly even a certification from PMI (Project Management Institute). Its distinctly possible a bachelors in something unrelated + PMI cert + work experience + good networking would be enough to get you into a project management role, without having to get a whole 2nd bachelors route (or do that while you are in process of the 2nd bachelors).

            My main take away is that you don’t want to wait until you have the 2nd bachelors in hand, since that sounds like it will take years. I’d say work on that as your backup plan, and while you are working toward it, see if you can find somewhere else that will accept a Bachelors in something unrelated plus coursework in EE or PM instead of a full out second bachelors.

            Reply
            1. Mark in Cali

              Good thought, but Calc I will already take up a huge amount of my time over the next 7.5 weeks. One. Course. At. A. Time. Can’t wait until 2018!

              Reply
      4. eng manager

        You definitely will have a leg up in many areas as opposed to your peers, most likely — your soft skills, ability to collaborate and work on teams, to build consensus around problems that you’re trying to solve, etc. will probably be much more mature than other fresh-faced college grads. I would say to anyone who is going to get a degree of any type to spend their summers doing internships, because:
        a) it’s a safe-fail — if you are terrible at the position, it doesn’t negatively impact your entire career (assuming you use this information to pivot your career focus elsewhere)
        b) it allows you to build your resume and experience — everyone who is a college grad has taken the courses, but having the additional experience makes you a much more attractive candidate

        In your case, your resume will most likely stand out and spark interest when you show the different degrees. It’ll make you stand out (positively) from the rest of the pack, in my estimation, because you’re a more diverse candidate. Just make sure that your story as to why you switched careers and focus is truthful and compelling. :)

        Reply
        1. Mark in Cali

          Thanks for your honest feedback! I work closely with mechanical engineers right now so I hope that counts for something, but we’ll see if my schedule would allow for an internship at some point (still working 9-5 full time as a salaried employee).

          I think my story is truthful. I like tangible results. Measurable results. Meaningful results. How many people visit our website or what color the print ad is isn’t my interest. How the website is coded and travels to a computer screen and how the printer known what ink to drop and where, that’s very interesting! EE or software engineering are really my two choices with online school, but I was draw to EE versus seeing out mechanical or software because I work for the power company already and electricity and circuitry has truly always intrigued me.

          Reply
  14. Dan

    #5

    I’m going to do some rambling here…

    1. If you want to be a programmer, it’s worth keeping in mind that “computer science” and “software engineering” really are different disciplines. CS teaches a lot of theory, and only some of it is relevant to writing code. For instance, I took a “compilers” course as part of of my CS undergrad work, and I don’t use that at all. Never have, probably never will.

    2. On the whole, the programming/software engineering field isn’t big on credentials. You’ll find few jobs that require or even “prefer” an MS or PhD. Bootcamps work if you already have a BA/BS in something. They’re going to work less if you have no degree whatsoever.

    3. In reference to a post above about taking a few community college classes, well, IMHO what you really want is something that leads up to a real capstone project. As an undergrad, my capstone project was a two-semester course where we did nothing but the project. These projects give you the experience of designing a project from the ground up — gathering requirements, figuring out how your users will interact with it, testing it, etc. It’s much more encompassing than writing a little Java code.

    4. Somebody mentioned something along the lines about coding being easy to learn, hard to master. There’s a lot of truth to that. Established languages such as C++ and Java, have been around for almost 20 years at this point. They do a LOT of things, many of which you won’t care about until you have to. For example, if I want to write some software that interacts with an Oracle database, I could write the drivers myself. I actually have no idea how to do that, and it’s going to be time consuming. In reality, I’m going to download the Oracle JDBC driver, add it to my code, and be pulling data in about 30 minutes.

    For this reason, I *hate* questionnaires that ask me to “self assess” my level of proficiency of a language. If you’re looking for an expert in something, be specific about what it is. Do you need someone who can write drivers from scratch? Then you probably don’t need someone who is up on the latest UI packages. Otherwise, if you just want someone who can link in a driver and pull data, it doesn’t take an expert to do that.

    So I guess the moral of the story is that if you proceed carefully and with eyes wide open, the boot camps wouldn’t be a waste of money. You’d want one that focuses on software engineering, not just coding. By that, I mean you can write code with a text editor and a free compiler. But most projects use more involved development environments, and you’ll be leading the pack if your boot camp exposes you to those tools and processes.

    Reply
    1. hamster

      In the US i guess these could work. In Eastern Europ where i work there is an overabundence of CS grads already and you wouldn’t go much/ BUT i know lots of people that can code and have no degrees whatsoever .
      Personally i would also try get certified ( in something like java you can) rather than a bootcamp.
      @Dan. At my first job, i actually had to write drivers. and a voice coder. . As i was during my degree i was surprised that i had to READ PAPERs for a JOB. I alwyas thought school and jobs were unrelated.
      For example i learned to code in high-school ( i had a CS class all the 4 years starting from hello world, sorting , etc , graphs, algorithms, data structures) some college ( also some CS classes, some java, some parallel computing- USEFUL ) and let me tell you there is a world of difference in going code-monkey on a problem thing and widening your horizon a bit with things like parallel computing, object oriented everything, architectures – ( lots of embededd coding this day with the internet of thing )
      Get a raspberry PI. Go to codeacademy.com. If you find those thigns useful, go to a coding bootcamp.
      But really, a software engineer is much more than a coder. In the real sense of engineering you learn how to learn stuff.

      Reply
      1. Jen RO

        In my side of Eastern Europe (Romania) there is a major shortage of programmers. I work in a software company and they keep upping the bonuses for recommending Java developers, without much luck. I also have a lot of friends in the industry and what I keep hearing is that finding *good* candidates is hard (many fresh grads don’t have the required knowledge), but also that it’s fairly easy to break into the field as a second career.

        (As a side note, software development in this country is paid very, very well compared to all other jobs. I think the salaries in this industry even exceed the Western Europe average, when you take into account that the cost of living is way smaller here.)

        Reply
        1. De (Germany)

          Same in Germany. I have a Master’s in Biology (focus on Bioinformatics, but it’s still not CS), and really had no problem finding work when I graduated. Three years later, I wrote three applications and got three job offers.

          Reply
        2. hamster

          I also work in Romania. there is not really a shortage of programmers. It’s more of a shortage or GOOD and Experienced Programmers with experience on the exact type of frameworks we want. If you want to hire noobs or grads or students there are a lot of them. It’s in the gap of 4-5 years that there are less of ( because 5 years ago java wasn’t that big, and grads were training mostly in C or oriented on the web) . I remember when i graduated i was while in school ( so zero experience) just on the assumption that she can learn. I learned. After 2 years i changed my focus from Java to Database ( programing , modeling, architectures, etc ) simply because during a project i touched them and i thoght OMG these are so interesting. Again , hired without experience ON the actual language/domain. just from the ideea well you worked as a programmer you will learn this stuff . And again, i have some co-workers who are smart (for real good tehnical people) and found difficult to change jobs because some bigger firms hr’s held against them the fact that they didn’t finish their degree. Which was irrelevant ( at this point they have been working for 5 years) but it happened. This is why i think it depends on the market.

          Reply
      2. Quirk

        Just a small note: I’m UK-based, and having certifications in Java or other languages really would have no impact here, or a slight negative impact; I believe it’s similar in the US. Nobody takes them seriously.

        Gold standard for someone with no commercial experience would IMO be either a reasonably extensive self-directed personal project that the developer can discuss and share code from, or a number of contributions to an open source project. The former shows some experience of design work and understanding of the bigger picture, the latter shows the capability to write code relevant to the real world that passes peer review. I’d prefer a degree alongside that, but if the project or open source contributions are high-impact enough, it’s really only a nice to have.

        Reply
        1. De (Germany)

          Yeah, I don’t think I even know someone who is certified in Java. They just aren’t taken seriously – experience is.

          Reply
    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      I would add to Dan’s advice to consider where your strengths lie in software engineering. There are more than coding jobs out there.

      I don’t have a CS degree. All my experience is applied experience in an enterprise realm. I know that I do not have the patience and acumen to code, but I know enough to recognize design and architecture patterns, read error logs, and understand dependencies and testing.

      It could be that you don’t need to know all the details but the structure and the application. If that’s the case, a bootcamp won’t help you. You’ll learn code without context.

      Reply
  15. rooose

    I work in technical recruitment in Europe
    #1 We get CV’s from job websites we use. We post an advert and we’ll be emailed a few suggestion CV’s “Bob could be a good fit for your posting Teapot Developer. Click here to download CV.” (Note: Bob is never a fit. Bob is a Waterspout Manager who lives in another country and doesn’t have my country on his list of indicated reloc areas)

    #5 I have found that my clients will not consider someone with a bootcamp qualification instead of a degree. HOWEVER, this may be because college education is generally free in Europe so the thought is that there’s no real excuse not to have it (like, if you want to work in a highly qualified area. Yes, I know the arguments for and against degrees)
    Sometimes, clients give us a technical test to be completed before we send CV’s to them. So we do the initial screening and only send people who pass. I usually use these jobs as an opportunity for people I know clients wouldn’t usually consider – people with unusual career paths, lower experience level, no degree, etc. Bootcamp people have never passed any test. The tests are usually “Write a little algorithm to do X” not “answer these 50 questions about the inner life of teapots in 30 minutes”.
    I’d love it if bootcamps worked and were recognised – it would open my candidate pool!

    Reply
    1. Quirk

      I do think you’re right that boot camps are not considered relevant in Europe. (I’m UK-based). I’ve been trying to be fairly positive about cases where someone with a boot camp qualification could be hireable, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a place where a boot camp qualification without a heavily mathematical degree or additional commercial experience would pass an initial CV screening.

      Reply
      1. Tau

        Also in UK, entry-level programmer without a CS degree (all maths here).

        I get the impression that the UK offers a lot more in the way of options for on-the-job training than the US, in the form of e.g. graduate schemes and the like. When I was applying to entry-level programming jobs on the basis of “I’ve done programming before and was good at it but am extremely rusty on all of it now, also look at my maths degrees” my options were definitely narrower than they would have been with a CS degree but they did exist and they were definitely plural. It may be that boot camps are bridging a gap that isn’t as pronounced in the UK?

        Reply
  16. JC Denton

    I feel like #1 is tough. On the one hand, I want my manager to be open and honest with me if they found out I was searching. On the other, I’ve had my share of managers who felt betrayed and/or got angry at the prospect of losing me. So while my gut says to not have the conversation; you already know, so you might as well play your cards. Consider that maybe the person is just seeing what’s out there or that there’s simply factors beyond your control that led to their search. Also, as other readers have pointed out, this may simply be an old resume that got recirculated.

    As a side note, I really dislike the “are you happy” question, because most managers are disingenuous in asking it. Many don’t really seem to care and seem to ask because some managerial guidebook told them to do so. If you answer in anything other than the negative, a lot of them fall right into the betrayal trap and the conversation becomes painfully awkward.

    Reply
    1. anon attorney

      I might be in a similar position to the employee in #1 soon. I am not actively looking yet, but I’m getting tired of a few aspects of my job and thinking it might be time to move on this year. If I was in this situation I would want my manager to raise it with me, but only if (a) she was genuinely open to making some reasonable changes to keep me onside and (b) gave me some warning that she wanted to have a “state of the nation” discussion so that I could reflect on how much and what I wanted to tell her. I would not want to have a conversation about my future with the company on the fly – too much risk of it impacting how I am seen in the firm if it goes wrong. So I think #1, if she is going to say anything at all, should give the employee the chance to collect her thoughts before having any such discussion.

      Reply
    2. Doriana Gray

      As a side note, I really dislike the “are you happy” question, because most managers are disingenuous in asking it. Many don’t really seem to care and seem to ask because some managerial guidebook told them to do so. If you answer in anything other than the negative, a lot of them fall right into the betrayal trap and the conversation becomes painfully awkward.

      I don’t know if I’d say “most” managers, but a lot of managers I’ve come across get this way. That’s why I never bothered answering that question seriously because I knew it wasn’t going to end well for me.

      Reply
  17. Quirk

    Thirty years ago, degrees in Computer Science were relatively rare and most software developers were self-taught and didn’t have them. They have become pretty much the default background for developers, now, but many developers come in from maths and physics. I know young developers who work in the field even now without any degree at all, who picked up the skills themselves. A well-evidenced “I’ve been coding since my teens” trumps a degree every time.

    The question is largely one of what it takes to get hired. Central belt Scotland is something of a tech hub, with multiple billion-dollar-valuation software companies based there, a rich stream of east-coast start-ups, and a lot of financial software development. Getting hired as a computer science graduate is hard here unless you have a very good degree or some kind of portfolio to show off; the perception is that a graduate doesn’t get really useful for a couple of years and begins as a drain on resources. The fear that they’ll leave after a lot of time has been invested in them sabotages their prospects. A coding boot-camp is likely to be taken much less seriously than a CS degree and the danger is that nobody will even invite you to interview. However, there are ways to compensate for that.

    If you have a highly mathematically literate background (e.g. physics degree) but no coding ability, a coding boot camp would make a lot of sense – people will believe in your aptitude and rigor, and you should be able to compete well with actual CS grads. Beyond that, if you have a great deal of domain knowledge in a particular field but no coding ability, the potential to be hired as a developer inside that field if you have a coding boot camp behind you is reasonably high.

    If your background is completely different – e.g. fresh from a humanities degree – it’s a different story. In the fields of software development I move in (C++, mission critical), you’d be flatly unhireable at the end of a boot camp. There are a few more opportunities in web development, which is a much easier and more constrained problem, and there are small companies running outdated tech and trying to get employees on the cheap who make questionable hiring decisions, but it’s not going to be an easy ride.

    tl;dr: Being a CS graduate is no guarantee of getting interviews, coding boot camps rank below that, it can work but it’s likely to work much better for some backgrounds than others.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      I think it REALLY depends on where you are. In the US in the tech heavy areas of the country where they are desperate for people who can code, a degree in physics or theory or whatever is less valuable than someone who can get in there and produce.

      Reply
      1. Quirk

        I’m in just such a tech heavy area.

        CS graduates in general can’t “get in there and produce”. They’ve got a leg up, but they’re a long way from being useful developers. Most physicists these days do learn to code as part of the degree, and while they’re missing a decent chunk of CS theory, they’re usually intellectually capable of picking it up. Given you’re going to have to train your CS grad for a year to make them useful, a good motivated and self-directed physicist can be better than an average CS grad.

        The folk who can get in there and produce tend to have at minimum a degree that involved some coding and a couple of years of experience. They’re much more expensive and valuable than new grads. The two-year premium round here is roughly +50% salary.

        I haven’t got much experience of boot camp attendees, but I would expect them to have a lot to learn that good graduates will already know.

        Reply
      2. Quirk

        One thing that might be different between the US and UK, though, is the incidence of people with degrees: over here, getting a university degree is relatively cheap. I very much doubt new CS graduates are any more useful in the States, but rarity may make them more valuable. I note though that there’s still a reasonably high unemployment rate in the US for new CS grads, so maybe it’s not so very different.

        Reply
  18. katamia

    I did a similar sort of program geared toward teaching rather than coding (I SO don’t have the temperament to be a good coder) because I wanted to improve my career prospects. However, I didn’t really look at what life was like as a teacher (which was absurd because my mother was a teacher and a lot of my friends were/are teachers, so I knew what the teaching life is like) and while I’m not a bad teacher, I was really miserable. It’s not what I’m doing now, and while I would be willing to teach again for a relatively short span of time or part time, I’m not sure it was really a good career move.

    Before you do the boot camp, you should (if you haven’t already) talk to people who are doing what you want to do and see if daily life as a coder (or whatever specific type of computer science you’re interested in) is something you would enjoy or at least be able to tolerate.

    Reply
  19. Jen

    #3- you may want to check on and/or be prepared for paying back maternity leave. Some companies have policies about quitting while on (or immediately after) paid leave. Others do but, but you may get a bill for benefits paid on your behalf during leave that would have otherwise have been “docked” upon your return. My company does the latter.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      That’s a really good way to train employees to stay for the minimum time after maternity in order to avoid the penalty, THEN quit. Like with most issues discussed here, it’s better if you can treat your employees like grownups, with trust and respect, and hopefully encourage the same kind of treatment in return.

      Reply
      1. AnonInSC

        Yep. I have lots of friends who have done that, either to stay home (sometimes that’s the plan, but they can’t say it b/c they need the leave/income/health insurance coverage, and others that had circumstances change) or to take a different job. It’s horrible, b/c no one believes you when you say you are coming back. But that’s the system, and if I was in my friend’s positions I would do the same thing.

        Reply
      2. MV

        Actually I think it’s pretty disrespectful for this person to have taken benefits meant for current employees and NOT expect to pay them back.

        What benefit does the company get here? To hold her job only to have her decide she doesn’t want it. That’s her right of course, but to think her former employers ought to pay for her to have benefits during leave and provide no benefit (coming back and working) is kind of crappy.

        Its likely that they would prefer she come back and stay for a minimum amount of time then quit, not just use their benefits and never come back. This is the reason why people are doubtful that someone will come back after a maternity leave. They often don’t and it can really screw over their coworkers.

        Reply
      3. fposte

        But if they’re willing to stay after and then quit, that’s likely a sufficient mitigation of loss for the company, not a bad outcome.

        I don’t think this is about infantilizing employees; it’s about saying that we pay for you on FMLA because you’re coming back. If it turns out you don’t come back, that’s not meeting the terms on which we paid.

        Reply
    2. Tammy

      I imagine this is why my company expects employees to pay their share of benefits during FMLA leave. I had surgery in November and was out of work for 6 weeks, and the HR folks said “you need to pay $X per pay period for the employer cost of your benefits when you’re on leave. Would you prefer to send us a check, or have us deduct Y extra hours of paid time off to cover that?”

      Reply
  20. Michael

    #4: At a certain advanced stage in the interview process for an ED job, you should be offered or can ask for more detailed financial information than the public 990s. As Alison said, their problems will be your problems, and you should be able to look through financial statements and/or have someone give you a rundown to understand the financial health of the organization.

    Reply
  21. NJ Anon

    #4 Agree with Alison completely! You want to go into this position knowing full well what is going on with their finances. Ask for their most recent financials. Not only are you going to be responsible, you want to know why they are running at a deficit. Also, boards should be involved in fundraising (but not always are) but at the very least they should donate or assist in any way they can.

    At Oldjob, the board hired a new executive director that left his old agency mired in debt. Not sure why they thought that was a good idea.

    Reply
    1. seuuze

      OP#4 here. Thank you for your advice. I was initially concerned that asking those pointed questions might boot me out of the running, but if I believe in transparency and they don’t, then I don’t want to work there anyway.

      Reply
      1. Smithy

        Here to say definitely probe a little deeper into what the board perceives as ‘helping with fundraising’. Every organization I’ve worked at, the board believes that they are helping – but what that actually looks like has varied wildly.

        At one job, one of our board members was a former employee of a company that was on our corporate prospecting list. During an initial conversation he was very open about reaching out to the company to help with some initial meetings. Once mentioned again, he said he’d be happy to reach out if we knew exactly who to email and if it was someone he’d already worked with.

        He always saw himself as being very helpful for us regarding outreach to this company, but how that worked out…..it was debatable.

        Reply
      2. Development professional

        You’re completely right about transparency.

        I was recently involved in the search process for a new ED for a small non-profit as a board member. We were really eager for the finalists to ask these types of questions, for several reasons.
        1. It shows that the candidate truly understands what it means to lead and have fiscal responsibility.
        2. Looking up our 990 shows that you have really done your homework about our org, which can be a big thing for non-profits. Being small, we can’t rely on people to say “I always wanted to work here” or even necessarily to have heard of us before the search process began. But a candidate who is spending time to learn about us from the get-go shows much more promising commitment to us than those that don’t.
        3. It opens up a conversation about philosophy and approach to fundraising that is useful for both sides.

        Reply
      3. Recovering ED

        Just went through a process of hiring a new ED for a org I’m very close to, and am horrified by the idea that you might NOT ask about finances at some point before accepting the job. Hiring an ED by all best practices should be a mutual courting process– in my experience, you’d want to not only see the finances in depth (cash flow as well as P+L) but try to get an understanding of current employees, relationships with funders, perception in your community… all of the things that you’d have to deal with. Fundamentally, as ED you’re in charge of the operational portion of making the organization a success, and if that’s not reasonably possible because the org is in the hole (financially or reputation-wise) than you’re setting yourself up for failure. Or at least a gamble. Any board that tries to hide financial or other key information from someone they want to hire as a ED is a huge red flag to me– run away. Very fast.

        Reply
        1. seuuze

          OP #4
          The reason I stated that the financial deficit question might be confrontational is that the board chair, during the first interview said “the budget is in excellent shape”, which is not how I would have phrased it during the interview process. So I will do some more digging to see if I can find more current information for 2014.

          Reply
          1. Recovering ED

            Honestly, I think that any decent board chair would think it was a positive and proactive sign that you know what the 990 said from 2013 and that you’re interested in the evolution. Maybe frame it in a positive way, to avoid any appearance of confrontation? “It’s great to hear that the finances are healthy. I saw that you had a deficit listing in 2013 on the 990– what was the path you took to get to this great place?” Or, well, probably not exactly that phrasing, which actually does sound potentially skeptical and confrontational. Or even just probing deeper– “you mentioned that the org is on a sound financial footing. Can you tell me more about the current revenue streams and expenses? Would the new ED be expected to just keep up the momentum, or to grow revenue substantially to plug gaps?”

            Also, if the board chair said precisely that, with that wording, “the budget is in excellent shape”… that’s an odd way to phrase that, implying to me that that the chair doesn’t have much financial experience. The budget is, definitionally, a plan or strategy for the future– so saying that would technically mean that the budget document is finished for next year. Someone more familiar with finances would be more likely to say that the “finances are in excellent shape” or “we’re on budget.” Not sure if that’s relevant or not, but it could be that actually the board chair doesn’t know much about the finances (which would be a bit worrying in of itself, but not a huge red flag… while the board is supposed to have a good handle on that stuff, in a lot of orgs the finances are really delegated to the ED).

            Reply
  22. Not an IT Guy

    #1 – Just out of curiosity, let’s assume for the moment that the OP has that conversation with the employee and offers to work through the issues that may exist. How is this not the same as extending a counter-offer, which by all norms should be rejected?

    Reply
    1. Jen RO

      Well, it depends, I guess. If someone came to me and said she wants to focus on X and that’s why she wants to leave, I would try to restructure the team to have her focusing more on X. To me, that wouldn’t be similar to a counteroffer.

      Reply
    2. KellyK

      I think the difference is that the employee hasn’t said they’re leaving. All the employer knows is that they have their resume posted, which may or may not mean they’re actively looking. So it may still be a reasonable time to address issues. But once someone has already made the decision to leave, that ship has probably sailed.

      Reply
    3. Azalea

      It really depends on why they may be looking. When I was job hunting, I really didn’t want to leave the company, but my working conditions had hit a point that I felt I had no options. When that was changed, I was more than satisfied and have no intent to leave.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        We also don’t know for a fact the employee is actively job hunting. They could just be updating their resume for the new year or something.

        Reply
    4. neverjaunty

      How is this the same as extending a counter-offer?

      The reason that ‘all norms’ suggest rejecting a counter-offer is that counter-offers generally occur in a situation where an employee has obtained an offer of employment elsewhere. In other words, the employee is so dissatisfied with their current workplace that they’ve actually gotten work elsewhere. In that case, a counter-offer is generally not recommended because the employee is likely to leave anyway.

      But realizing that an employee is dissatisfied and then attempting to remedy the problem isn’t really a counter-offer, I don’t think.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, I know the analogies to dating have their limitations, but there is a difference between a spouse saying “I’m unhappy” and then going to therapy or trying to work out versus “We’re getting a divorce, and I’m leaving you for so-and-so,” and then saying “But what can I do differently?”

        Reply
    5. fposte

      Agreeing with neverjaunty–I think you are (somewhat understandably) confusing “counteroffer” as in “the company you’re leaving offering you more money to stay” and the back-and-forth numbers involved in negotiation. It’s linguistically sensible to call them both counteroffers, but only one of them is the kind that isn’t worth doing.

      Reply
  23. Allison

    #5, I’m dating a guy who used to teach at a bootcamp, and he’s a big proponent of them since pretty much everyone he taught ended up getting a job, and the place he works now does hire bootcamp grads when they need entry-level engineers.

    That said, I also know a guy who went to a different bootcamp and he did recently get a job, but it took him about 6 months to find one. Not sure why he had trouble, but the bootcamp is definitely not a guarantee.

    There seems to be a good number of employers whose engineering managers will gladly hire bootcamp grads into entry level roles, either because they’re big believers in the program or know they can offer less than programmers with CS degrees might expect, but there are other companies where the managers won’t, because in their mind, it’s simply not the same thing as having gone to college for it, or maybe they’ve had bad experiences with bootcamp grads in the past. I’m not saying it’s fair, but that’s the reality.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Well, there’s still all the other stuff that goes along with it. You have to interview well, be able to answer the questions they ask, etc. :)

      Reply
    2. A.J.

      In addition to what Anna said about interviewing well, bootcamp job seekers also should have a strong portfolio of code examples and projects. My team recently rejected some bootcamp candidates who seemed pretty good in their interviews, but their capstone projects were pretty disappointing. But we’ve hired some in the past who had amazing projects, and it really does make a world of difference. If you invested all that time and effort into the ~12 week bootcamp, you should be motivated enough to have a quality final project (and if its not quality by the end of the program, you can still put more effort into it while you job search).

      Reply
  24. Meg Murry

    I have a lot of thoughts for OP #5, but not a ton of time, but this is what stuck out to me the most: OP#5 pointed out bootcamps “for people with non-technical degrees”. OP#5, what is your background? Have you ever played around with any kind of coding before, or other tech-y stuff? How are you at problem solving and math? Because while I know some bootcamps advertise themselves as being good for non-technical people to become coders, I highly suspect the people that do best at that kind of program are people who:
    -Have dabbled in coding, at least a little bit
    -Have a strong math background or are good at procedural things or problem solving – a lot of coding is “do step one, then do step 2, now 3, then repeat 2 and 3 until ABC, then step 4, etc” and figuring out that procedure is half the battle, then making your code do it is the other half, at least for super inexperienced code dabblers like me
    -Do well in high stress, long hour, little sleep environments for weeks at a time
    -Are geographically flexible both for the bootcamp itself and for where you are willing to work after bootcamp

    I think what a lot of people are pointing out is that OP should take a basic coding class at community college first to see if s/he picks up coding quickly and doesn’t hate it – because quitting your job and using your life savings to go to a 10 week bootcamp to find out you actually hate coding sounds like a horrible waste of money.

    FWIW, technical people aren’t necessarily good coders and vice versa – I have friends that were theater and music majors and do app or webpage development on the side for fun, and friends that were STEM majors that just barely made it through a required C+ for STEM (non-CS) majors because they just didn’t “get” it. However, OP’s “non-technical” mention threw up a red flag for me that I wanted to mention.

    Also, link to follow, but Wired just did a piece 2 days ago on how bootcamps are springing up like crazy, and while some are good, others are for-profits designed to just take your money and very few people will actually get jobs out of them. Google: “In 2016, The Coding Bootcamp Bubble Is Bound to Burst”

    Reply
    1. Blue_eyes

      Great points. I think learning to code a bit on something like codeacademy [dot] com can be a great way to see if you like coding. For instance, while I know that I’m certainly smart enough to pick up some coding, I definitely don’t have the temperament to do it as a job. You need to have a certain tolerance for uncertainty and patience when you don’t know what’s wrong with your code, and those are not my strong suit.

      Reply
      1. Meg Murry

        Same here. I can play around with code for fun, and I am good at piecing together other people’s code and then tweaking it for my own purposes, but I

        When I went to college, I considered being a CS major, and if I’d gone to any other college, I probably would have. However, before college I had only done some very very very intro programming (a friend wrote programs in BASIC and taught me to understand what he wrote and tweak his programs, and my math teacher taught me to record and the tweak Excel macros). I went to a super technical school, and in my very first CS-101 class we were taught an obscure programming language. I was the super-majority in lots of ways in that class (it was only about 10% female, for one) but the biggest one was that while this was my first real exposure to programming, for the majority of my classmates, this was their 4th, 5th or for some even 10th programming language – I’d say again, only about 10% of us were on our first programming language – and while I just barely made it through that class, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it through that degree program. And just like how once you have learned the basics of French it is a lot faster to pick up Spanish, once you have learned the basics of one programming language and how to think like a programmer, learning your 2nd through nth programming language is way easier. If OP doesn’t have the basics of coding, I suspect s/he will be at the same kind of disadvantage I was (although maybe not to quite the same extent), and may be setting herself up for failure.

        Reply
    2. AndersonDarling

      I read a column a while back about the dark side of coding bootcamps and it was pretty much this concept. Some advertise that “anyone” can learn to code and make big money. But the reality is that it takes a special set of skills to enjoy coding and you won’t know it until you try it. And if you don’t like it, you just wasted $5K for a bootcamp.
      At least take an intro class, in person or online, just to make sure coding is really your cup of tea.

      Reply
    3. Stephanie

      FWIW, technical people aren’t necessarily good coders and vice versa – I have friends that were theater and music majors and do app or webpage development on the side for fun, and friends that were STEM majors that just barely made it through a required C+ for STEM (non-CS) majors because they just didn’t “get” it.

      *raises hand* This was me. I was ok with using MATLAB as a means to an end for a problem set, but anything more complicated than that eluded me. I also didn’t pick up new languages quickly, as I discovered the hard way when I had to learn and use Python for the first time during an internship.

      For whatever reason, my brain didn’t really think that way or I wasn’t really taught to think that way. I found the frustration in programming incredibly frustrating.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        Yeah, if you dislike feeling that particular kind of frustration more than you feel rewarded when you do crack the puzzle, it’s hard to build up a positive feedback loop to want to keep going, learn more, and tackle harder and harder problems. I often describe enjoying programming as being addicted to that high from success, and we’re kind of like rats continuing to press the lever for more drugs :P

        Reply
  25. the gold digger

    if the board does not participate in fundraising and doesn’t think it is their job

    I was recruited to be on my neighborhood association board. I volunteered to head the ad sales committee for the home tour booklet (our big annual fundraiser). The president of the board told me that all board members had to sell a minimum number of ads. We had a huge disagreement where I said I was not going to do it if I had to force people to sell – most people would rather poke hot needles in their eyes than ask for money and it’s counterproductive to ask them to do it. The president was ticked off, saying that raising money is part of being on a board. I had never heard that before!

    Anyhow, I presented my proposal to the entire board – that I do all the selling – and shockingly, they agreed with me. The president was ticked and I don’t think she ever forgave me, but I increased ad revenues 35% that year. Ha. I won.

    Reply
    1. seuuze

      I think there is leeway for those who do not feel comfortable asking directly for money. However, in my experience, reluctant fund raising board members should at the very least provide a list of potential donors/prospects from their circle of friends, business connections, etc and be willing to make an introduction for the purpose of a possible future donation in an open and up front manner. And if the entire board thinks this idea is out of the norm, then it indicates that they have had very little board training or development, something that is useful and necessary for a successful board that wants the organization to flourish and remain in business.

      Reply
        1. seuuze

          I agree completely. They were very lucky for to to take that on and be so successful. I hope they were thrilled with your results.

          Reply
    2. Bwmn

      While I understand your perspective for this particular neighborhood association, I would not want a job as an ED of an organization where the board did not participate in fundraising. Prescribing just one way for a board to fundraise I don’t see as effective – the chances of everyone on the board being good at one fundraising approach is unlikely – but I do think that for a professional nonprofit (vs a volunteer organization), the board participating in fundraising should be expected.

      I used to fundraise overseas in a country where it is not the norm for the board to fundraise – and it was really rather ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. seuuze

        OP #4
        I absolutely do think that the board of a professional nonprofit should be engaged with fundraising and step up to do so. However, I feel it is important to recognize that not every person will bring the same type of skills to this endeavor and that some thought process and conversation would be a way to explore how they are comfortable helping. Board development and coaching are good options as well. If there is a lot of push back in accepting this as part of their role, then it does not bode well for the executive director to do all of the heavy lifting of fundraising, outside of the grant writing. They all should have extensive community connections and use those opportunities to support the organization they serve.

        Reply
  26. Kelly L.

    I would be wary of assuming Indeed’s auto-email actually says anything accurate about the employee at all. Many, many websites send various emails that are…kind of misleading. Non-job-search example: a few years ago, I tried to link my Goodreads with my Facebook, and suddenly all these people got emails saying I “wanted to connect with them on Goodreads,” when I’d expressed no such interest. It just mined my friends list. (I don’t remember all the details anymore.) And when a pop-up says singles in your area want to meet you, it doesn’t mean anyone has really said so. ;) And there was the whole scandal with The Ladders, where they posted jobs that didn’t exist or didn’t pay what The Ladders claimed, and hiring managers were deluged with people applying for these imaginary jobs.

    If you want to have a general conversation with this employee about her satisfaction and how she’s feeling about things, that’s fine, but I would be very wary of assuming it means she’s definitely searching.

    Or if you have a really good rapport, I think you could even tell her, “hey, just so you know, Indeed is sending these things,” in case it’s without her consent, so she can remove herself from there if it bothers her.

    Reply
  27. JeJe

    A lot of people have already given opinions on the quality of coding bootcamps, so I’ll leave that aside. I’m mostly concerned about why you think this is a good idea, particularly because you said that you don’t think you’ll be good at your current career. Why do you think you’ll be good at programming? Have you tried it and already determined that you love it?

    Software jobs can be interesting and rewarding and usually come with good pay and benefits. However, no matter how good you are, you’ll be spend a lot time being frustrated. Whether you are learning a new concept or debugging some odd problem, the thought that you will ‘never get this’ or ‘are not cut out for this’ or ‘can’t deal with this anymore’ will likely cross your mind more than once. Before you quit your job and take an expensive class, think about if you are going to be able to fight through that frustration?

    Reply
    1. themmases

      That was my main reaction too. The OP doesn’t share them in their question, but I hope they have some specific reasons they think a more technical career would be the right fit for them. Bootcamps are expensive in opportunity cost alone, and it is relatively easy to find out if you might like and be good at coding before you go.

      There are many free resources online to dip your toe into learning about coding, and I would really recommend them to anyone thinking about taking their career in a more technical direction. My personal favorite is Learn Code the Hard Way. I used it to pick up some Ruby just out of curiosity. I now do statistical programming as part of my job, and it did help me pick up the languages I needed faster. The exercises, where you must Google things on your own, apply your basic knowledge to a new and more complicated problem, and troubleshoot something that seems like it should be very straightforward, are just like what I get paid to do now even though the languages and application are very different.

      Even before trying out a community college course, I would advise the OP to research their desired career (will they capitalize on their job experience so far or change fields completely? What do people in the industry say they need more of?), select some tools that are relevant in their desired field, and at least take a crack at learning one on their own for free. “Coding” isn’t a monolith; if OP does end up doing a bootcamp they will need this research to choose one relevant to the jobs they want to apply for at the end. If they express interest in tech on Meetup, there are lots of free and paid events they can go to to learn about interesting issues in the industry and meet people. Schools like General Assembly also have shorter, cheaper stand-alone courses in topics like data analysis.

      Reply
    2. Ife

      Seconded on the Frustration part. Programming is not a career I would recommend to most people (my younger self included), unless you’re really interested in everything surrounding computers (not just coding — I’m talking how the internet works, learning random new programming languages for fun, configuring settings on a server, etc). I love programming, but I really don’t like being a programmer because I don’t care so much about the other stuff I listed.

      Another thing I’ll point out, is that contrary to the stereotype, you actually need a lot of people skills to be a good programmer. I spend a lot of time in meetings asking questions and figuring out what people *really* want (vs. what they say they want), and I have to figure out how to ask questions in a way that people understand. When someone is upset that the application isn’t working, I sometimes need to calm them down while getting information from them. I also spend a lot of time working directly with my coworkers, even when we are on separate projects. I spend probably 60% of my time doing “people” stuff, 30% doing technical work, and 10% coding. At my last job (small company) it was probably 40% people stuff, 30% coding, and 30% technical work.

      Reply
      1. Treena

        +1 million to your last paragraph. I don’t know where that perception came from, but if you want to move past entry-level programming or contract work, you’re going to be spending a LOT of time *not* coding. I would say my husband does 50% talking to clients, internal team members, contractors while managing a project, 30% building out the architecture for the projects, and 20% actually coding. That said, he’s in a leadership role, but that’s what happens above entry-level.

        Reply
    1. Oryx

      I’ve never uploaded a resume to anything through Indeed but it’s a meta-search engine so I’ve found it a better use of my time to search for jobs through Indeed than by going to each individual job posting site.

      Reply
    2. Ad Astra

      I applied for my current job through Indeed, which is a thousand times easier and faster than applying through most application-tracking systems. Just clicked one or two buttons and the application was in!

      Reply
    3. Regina 2

      I got my last job because a hiring manager saw my resume there. For the areas I’ve lived, it has had better quality job postings than CraigsList. So it’s definitely not useless.

      Reply
    4. Lindsey

      I wouldn’t post my resume publicly on there, but Indeed is just a job posting aggregator, like the Google of job boards – I’ve had tons of luck finding positions that way. Of course, I apply through the company’s website after finding the listing on Indeed.

      Reply
  28. Temperance

    If you aren’t good at your current job, and don’t think you will ever be good, I definitely do not recommend seeking out coding as a job. It’s HARD, stressful, difficult, and you’ll be putting in long hours. It’s not something to try on a whim.

    My husband is a programmer and loves it, but … it’s not a job you take on a whim.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      I don’t think B necessarily follows A, here. Coding may be all those things, but we don’t have enough information about what the OP is doing now to tell them not to try coding. We also don’t know what time and thought the OP has put in to making this change. The OP is only asking about the practicality of coding boot camps, not if they have the right temperament for it.

      Reply
      1. KWu

        Agreed. Coding is hard, but so are lots of different kinds of work. After having been in a sales job, I highly respect really good salespeople and think they fully deserve their large commissions because you could not pay me enough to keep putting myself through that, nor would my work in that job likely be worth a lot.

        But yes, don’t commit to a huge, expensive program on a whim–true of any new career direction.

        Reply
  29. Lisa

    For OP#1 – I think you have a good opportunity here to keep your valued employee. You have a new position with a budget. Why not take some of that budget and give it to the employee? This assumes that you are not paying over-market rate yet. Throw another week’s vacation on the deal too. More money + more vacation would keep me in a job longer (especially without asking for it).

    Reply
  30. Mike C.

    RE: #3

    I personally had to laugh when I say this question posed, given the discussion of the past few days. This ran through my mind –

    OP: Well it looks like I won’t be returning to work after all.
    Boss: Oh I knew things would change once you had your baby and I’ve seen it before and blahblahblah
    OP: No, I’m still returning to work, just not for you.
    Boss: …

    Reply
  31. Mark in Cali

    #5 – I have a bachelor’s in theater and after weighing all the options decided to get a second bachelor’s in electrical engineering through an online program. Just throwing this out there because while I wish Allison’s belief that intense, hands on training is better than another degree is universally true, I don’t think for someone like me transitioning from a background in the theater to a STEM career happens easily. May be worth it to take the course to see if you are interested at least and maybe it gets you a job that has a tuition program that you can use to get another degree in CS.

    Reply
  32. Anon Guy

    #5: Before you take on the huge expense of a Coding Camp (and they *are* pretty expensive), I recommend you try a self-paced course online. I’ve had good luck with udemy.com (I don’t work for them in any way, shape or form). The courses are rated and most are pretty good and less than $100.

    This will:

    1. Let you see if you have an aptitude for coding. Unless you’re doing lots of graphics or writing games, most coding is more logic than math.

    2. Let you see if you LIKE coding. You might find it the greatest thing ever or the most boring. One lesson I’ve learned–we spend SO MUCH time at work that it’s just not worth it to take a job you hate unless you’re really in dire financial straits.

    3. Let you find out which area of coding interests you. Most people are initially drawn to the flashy startups, but the bulk of computer science work is in IT Departments at fairly mundane corporations and/or government agencies.

    Also, once you know your general area of interest (web design, database development, etc.), find a local user group. There are meetups for almost all areas of software development. These are designed for learning, but also networking and almost all of them are free, though occasionally some of them will be in a bar of coffee shop so you’ll have to pony up the cost of a beer or coffee.

    Only after you’ve done this would I start looking into coding camps. Hope this helps.

    Reply
  33. ThursdaysGeek

    Concerning #5 – How does a bootcamp education compare to to a for-profit school like University of Phoenix? We’ve already had a good discussion on how UOP can be worse than nothing on the resume, because of how some view it. Do bootcamps ever fall into the same category?

    In other words, is it better to spend money on something more traditional? Are bootcamps alone a good starting point, or better for retooling someone who already has a degree?

    Reply
    1. DropTable~DropsMic

      I did a bootcamp over the last summer and a huge part of the appeal is that I didn’t have to go back to school for multiple years. I’d say the main difference is that coding bootcamp is very skills focused, not theory focused. The difference between bootcamp and a CS degree is like the difference between a training to be a phlebotomist or home health aide, and a biology degree.

      Reply
    2. KWu

      There are certainly people who attach stigma to a bootcamp education and would reject candidates out of hand. There’s a diversity of tech companies and work out there though, that it’s not like UoP where it will harm you with the majority. After a couple years experience, I might leave off the bootcamp education on my resume, but it was always intended to just get me into that first job.

      I think I’ve read other comments here that people should still have at least a bachelor’s in something else, but I don’t know that that matters necessarily–with coding, there are more ways to demonstrate your work and skills and that’s what (good) companies care about, rather than educational pedigree.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        Exactly this. While I’m not as familiar with boot camps, specifically (I’m more familiar with things like Treehouse.com), I do know that when you’re in a position of desperately needing people to fill roles you get less picky about things like 4-year degrees. They aren’t necessary and the tech industry from what I’ve seen is changing. Badges, certificates, etc. are all becoming more acceptable. It’s possible there’s still some cultural lag, but non-traditional education and training is probably going to be more and more common.

        Reply
      2. Anna

        And while the Wired article makes a great point about the proliferation of boot camps and the quality of education coming out of some of them, it’s more of a “the bubble is gonna burst, isn’t it” tone. I am always suspicious of any writer who predicts the end of something at a specific time. The writer doesn’t quote statistics; they give thoughts. So yeah, some of those boot camps will fail because that’s what happens (some of the pot stores in WA, OR, and CO will fail too because there are too many of them), but that doesn’t mean there won’t still be a need for coders immediately.

        Reply
    3. Meg Murry

      Based on the Wired article I posted above, I was kind of thinking the same thing. When UoP first started, it wasn’t seen as so bad – and I think some of their first programs might have actually been mildly robust. But now, every single one of their programs is tainted with the “terrible for profit” brush, due to a lot of crappy programs and diploma mills out there (theirs and other for profits). My fear is that once more terrible bootcamps spring up and companies get burned by one bad boot camp hire it could paint all boot camps with the same kind of brush as UoP has now, so that in 5-10 years people will brush off someone with bootcamp experience the same way they do UoP now. However, if someone can use bootcamp to get a coding job so that they have real experience on their resume and a real portfolio of work to back up that experience, I don’t think they would be in such a bad place as UoP graduates.

      Reply
  34. Layne

    In my experience, coding bootcamps are awesome for getting a web or mobile development job. Especially if you’re in the Bay Area. Those programs are very very good at getting you a decent paying job. The caveat is that (in working with others who have gone through various bootcamps) going through it is no guarantee that you are actually good at coding. You have to really dedicate yourself to learning during the program and ESPECIALLY after. A lot of bootcamps boast that they can get you past a junior developer job to a mid level or senior job. That’s simply not true. You need experience in the workforce, banging your head against code. Years of experience is the only way to truly get to a senior level position. Also, you will have no real knowledge of analyzing algorithms or low level programming. You will be excellent at fixing bugs in already built programs, but the chances of you being able to build the backend for a product from scratch are very low. You will have a limited skill set, but you’ll be pretty good at what you do. I don’t think bootcamps will ever be more valuable that a computer science degree. They just can’t fit four years of education into 4 months. But bootcamps are good at producing employable developers at a junior level.

    Reply
    1. KWu

      Yah, agreed with this on what’s a reasonable expectation for a junior developer job out of a bootcamp and the amount of effort you have to put in yourself. I will just point out that the analyzing algorithms or learning how to build a backend from scratch aren’t things you have to learn through a 4-year degree program, especially since you are not spending all of your course time in those 4 years on coding projects. Different formats for different situations, learning preferences, and goals.

      Reply
  35. DropTable~DropsMic

    I’m a bootcamp grad and I have very mixed feelings. My #1 piece of advice would be DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look into what kind of work you’d like to do after graduating and if the bootcamp will give you the skills to do that. Talk to people who have attended the bootcamp (if you can, find them on your own through local forums or meetups, not through the bootcamp) and see what they think. If you can, try to get informational interviews with local hiring managers in the field and see what they think. If this seems overwhelming, go to meetup.com and look for local meetups focused on the work you want to do.

    My bootcamp was very unprofessionally run. There was almost no structure to the classes, the director knew nothing about programming and was rude to students, and the promised job placement services never materialized.

    On the other hand, I am now working as a web development intern. I met my boss through a meetup held by the coding school (although it could have just as easily been any other meetup, I think). But other students I have talked to don’t seem to have gotten work in the field in the months since graduating.

    I would say things to look for are 1) relationships with local companies you’d like to work for (verify this with sources outside the coding school) and 2) an internship that’s part of the bootcamp. A capstone project is nice but frankly we had one, I didn’t finish it, and it’s really not the same as having a particular project that will be used by actual people.

    I agree you should do online coding courses, regardless of whether you plan to do a bootcamp. Even professional programmers who have done this work for years take these courses.

    Reply
  36. ComputerGeek

    I would steer away from any for-profit, non-accredited “school.”

    You want to be a developer?

    Do you have a bachelor’s degree? BS, BA. Whatever. If not, get one. Don’t go to a code academy. Get a real degree. If nothing else, it demonstrates that you can stick with something for 3-5 years.

    Now that you have a degree, do you have experience in the language of your chosen employer? If so, apply. You’re on your way.

    If not, get experience. Not by paying a for-profit code camp. Their certification at the end isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. (I’m saying that with 20+ years in the software industry. My opinion is worth the same amount. :)

    A 12 week project isn’t worth anything.

    A 12 month project is where it gets interesting. Find an open source project that ignites passion within you. Start contributing.

    “So…your degree is in Teapotology, and now you’re wanting to be a developer. What experience do you have?”

    “I have been the 3rd highest contributing on the Apache XYZ project for the past year.”

    Now, you have my attention.

    Swap out the last line with, “I spent $$ on a code camp,” and chances are good that I didn’t even get past your resume to call you.

    Reply
  37. Lisa

    I’m a non-coding person at a tech company and would suggest steering clear of coding camps UNLESS you don’t expect to get a job that way and just want to do it to jump-start your learning, AFTER which you will spend several more months contributing to a project or developing your own thing. And THEN you go look for the job.

    An alternative if you’re disciplined enough is to get a non-technical job (even working the front desk) at a tech company and teach yourself to code via self-serve online resources in your night and weekend time, and work on building relationships with technical staff to the point where after knowing them for a while you can work in, “Hey I’ve been teaching myself (language) which we use here and I’ve accomplished (feats of coding) so far. Is there any menial development work that’s been falling by the wayside because it doesn’t interest any developers? If so could I give it a shot?”

    Reply
    1. A.J.

      This is kind of what I did. At my last job as a GIS analyst I started teaching myself Python scripting in my spare time in hopes of using some open source GIS libraries in Python to automate some of my menial tasks. I asked one of my SWE coworkers to mentor be a bit and help with some questions I had. Then I started building larger programs and built up a bit of a portfolio, writing scripts that my entire team used on a daily basis. Then I started asking some of the other SWEs and data engineers if they had any little projects I could work on in my spare time. Finally I was able to use these skills to land a new job as a support engineer, where coding isnt the primary job responsibility, but it is definitely a necessity. So I am slowly working my way up into a more development-oriented career, and building a nice portfolio along the way. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a full software engineer role (probably not…), but I’m happy to at least be doing a decent amount of coding as part of my job. I actually preferred this over quitting my job, relocating, spending all my savings on a bootcamp, and then being really stressed out during the rigorous demands of the program. That being said, I still do think there are many upsides to going through the bootcamp, I just think that its not always the best option for everyone.

      Reply
  38. Anna

    To OP #5 – Oregon has CodeOregon.org. I believe there are programs like this in other states. See if your state has one. Basically an organization funded through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act has received grant funds to A) Help people learn coding and B) Place them in jobs after they complete training. They are required by their funding to do that. It’s not a random for-profit boot camp, so that at least is less worrisome. The companies they work with are some of the biggest start-ups and established companies in our area and the US, so when people here say they wouldn’t hire anyone coming at them with boot camp credentials and so on, know they aren’t speaking for all tech companies. Good luck and here’s to trying something new!

    Reply
    1. DropTable~DropsMic

      CodeOregon just stopped doing what little job search help they had. They are still doing the free classes though, and I’ve heard TreeHouse is trying to start some sort of certificate program (don’t know if it’s out yet). I did find TreeHouse super helpful when I was learning to code. Their materials are well organized for a beginner and they do a good job of motivating you and suggesting next steps.

      I got funding for boot camp through my state’s job placement agency so that is a good resource to check out. It was considered vocational training, not an educational scholarship, so the application process is different from the one to get federal student aid. So if you’ve been turned down for educational grants you might be able to get job training funds, for example.

      Community college is another good resource–I got a pretty good foundation in database programming and design basics before I even decided to be a web developer, by taking CC classes on it.

      Reply
  39. kcat

    #5 A lot of people have already weighed in with great advice. I just made a hire and had some applicants with coding school only experience. What really made some stand out over others is their portfolio. I wanted to see actual completed and hosted projects with quality commented code on github or some other place where it was clear what contributions the applicant made to the project.

    In our case, we had a “computer science degree OR equivalent experience” requirement, so if the person did not have at least 4 years experience I could not hire them. BUT, that’s because we’re a small department with only two programmers and without the structure to train junior devs. Lots of local companies here will hire straight out of code school. You can expect a year or three after code school of semi-grunt work as you learn the ropes.

    Others have mentioned that you should look into the school and try to determine if graduates are hired out of the program by talking to some graduates. You might also want to look around at tech jobs like quality assurance analyst as a way into a tech career as well – I know a few people who have gone from QA to programmer, and a few that the company they work for paid for their code school stay. That probably only happens in locations where companies are desperate for people.

    Reply

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