BloomTech vs. Code Bootcamps vs. College
Many years ago, Ben Nelson and I decided to start BloomTech after asking ourselves the following question:
“Why is it that companies are so reluctant to hire the junior engineers that are coming out of coding bootcamps and college?”
We eventually determined the answer was very simple:
- Code bootcamps don’t teach you enough stuff
- Colleges don’t teach you the right stuff
I’ll expand on both of these in detail in the following blog post, but while BloomTech is often known for its innovative business model, the most important differentiating factor between BloomTech, colleges, and code bootcamps is the depth of the curriculum and the methodology for determining what a student should learn.
BloomTech vs. Code Bootcamps - What are the differences?
If code bootcamps were working well, there would have been no need for a BloomTech. But bootcamps have two significant flaws:
- They don’t teach the depth of content that is necessary.
- They’re far too brief to allow mastery of the content.
We puzzled over why code bootcamps were content to send students into the world who weren’t prepared to actually solve the problems software engineers need to be able to solve.
We later understood that it was an accident of history and a broken business model that favored economy and speed over proficiency.
Why Are Code Bootcamps So Short, And Why Don’t They Cover Enough Material?
A decade ago, when code bootcamps emerged, the main goal was to get people just enough technical experience that with additional on-the-job training, they could eventually learn to code well. The initial goal wasn’t making people job-ready. Rather, it was to get people excited about coding. The explicit aim was to teach someone enough to “be dangerous” in a format that was low-cost, fast, and exciting.
The model code bootcamps settled on had three important parts:
- A short duration that would allow people to attend during a brief sabbatical from school or work.
- A price point low enough that a lot of people could reasonably pay for it out-of-pocket.
- A curriculum designed to make it possible to rotate students through courses quickly, thus maximizing classroom space and minimizing campus real estate costs.
As a result, the fundamental premise of the code bootcamp model was, “You give me $15,000, I’ll teach you to build your first app in 12 weeks.” This was a great business model—as long as you only needed to build your first prototype app.
Today, if you speak with original founders of code bootcamps, you’ll learn that they never intended that 12 weeks was enough time to take someone from zero to hireable software engineer. They were interested in creating a shortcut that could produce a potential engineer faster than the only route then available: a four-year computer science degree.
Eventually students started getting hired, and the marketing slowly shifted, but the curriculum and depth in code bootcamps never caught up.
The Four-Year CS Degree
I’ll never forget my first Computer Science class in college.
I wandered down to a smelly computer lab in the basement of a math building, and instantly upon sitting down, a professor who had literally never worked outside of a classroom started walking us through Java syntax. We had no idea why we would need any of this or what Java even was.
When someone had the audacity to ask him to repeat a piece of the lecture that was confusing, the professor started on a rant about how Computer Science isn’t for everyone. He later noted that for this professor the main purpose of that class was to weed out everyone who wasn’t extremely dedicated to (or already proficient in) coding.
Yet I found in interviewing recent CS grads later on in my career, while their academic knowledge was indeed sufficient, they generally had no idea how to actually ship software.
Many have never touched production systems, modern languages, actual applications, and many have never built anything on a team. A CS grad is valuable, but employers face the difficult (and expensive) challenge of ramping up a CS grad on “real-world” systems and technologies before they are actually providing value to the company.
So This Brings Us to The BloomTech Approach…
What we knew when we started to envision BloomTech was this:
- Bright, driven learners with a lot of self-taught exposure can still get hired upon completing their bootcamp curriculum, but it simply is not accurate to tell the average learner that they can reliably learn to program in 12 weeks and get a high-paying software engineering job.
- A computer science degree is the slowest, most expensive, least practical route to becoming a software engineer, especially if you know all you really want is a job.
There had to be a better way.
We weren’t exactly sure what the business model would need to look like, but we started from scratch. We talked with hundreds of CTOs and hiring managers. We took time to understand what employers actually wanted software engineers to know, and worked backwards from there to create our curriculum.
It was immediately clear that there was no possible way to fit that curriculum into twelve, eighteen, or even twenty weeks of full-time, intensive study.
As a result, BloomTech takes longer, covers more material, and builds in fundamentals of computing and computer science that bootcamps don’t even touch.
Yes, It’s going to take longer than twelve weeks, but it’s the education employers want students to have.
Adding BloomTech Labs
Later on, we realized there was another difference between what schools offered and what employers wanted, but this time it was something employers didn’t even know to ask for:
- New grads had no experience working in teams, and nearly all software is a team sport–one of the most important aspects of building software is working with a team in doing so.
- New grads were unfamiliar with the dynamics and tooling of shipping production software. The imaginary projects they’d build and deploy from scratch didn’t mirror an actual working environment.
Every hiring manager prefers to hire software engineers who had real-world work experience, yet how would a student get experience if they couldn't be hired? If you’ve ever tried to get an entry-level job, you have already faced this dilemma: “We’d love to hire you if you just had some experience.” But how to get experience?
We decided we needed to build a “real-world” work experience into our model.
The result was BloomTech Labs: A simulation of sorts, where an engineer or data scientist experiences what a real work environment is actually like, working on real-world projects that are production-ready and shippable.
This means showing up, working with a manager, being assigned tickets, working through issues on a team, shipping, deploying, explaining your work, and retrospectives.
Hiring managers started to tell us the BloomTech hires they were working with could skip months of training that would be required if they hired out of other schools. In addition, students felt confident when they showed up on the first day of work, and slipped right into doing what they had become comfortable with and accustomed to. They knew they were acting as already experienced junior software engineers!
While we believe that both CS Degrees and code bootcamps fall short, there has to be a better way.
You can try it out and view the curriculum in BloomTech’s free trial. Send the curriculum to a hiring manager or engineer you know, and see what they think!