What was your career like before switching to tech?
When I moved to Asia from Germany, my primary source of income was the German language. I’ve worked as a translator, transcriber and language teacher for few years before making a switch.
What made you think about a career switch to tech?
Before switching to tech, I was working as a freelance German teacher in Singapore. Being a teacher was fun, but the job didn’t really challenge me anymore. I was always teaching the beginner level of students and it being language teaching, the knowledge required to teach becomes fairly constant over time. The job didn’t challenge me anymore.
Apart from job dissatisfaction, another factor that contributed to my decision was that with teaching, there was an income ceiling that I reached and I was looking for something new with growing responsibilities at home.
As to why I chose tech, I was always the computer kid of the block, burning CDs, building my own PC. I started building video game guide websites when I was 14-15 using HTML and inline CSS. This was pre-2000s, so I don’t think stylesheets were a thing back then. I continued developing some Wordpress websites later on here and there e.g. for my Gym.
How did you start your journey of a career switch?
Around 2018 or 2019, I really took serious the idea of a career switch to tech. I started self studying with some Udemy courses and other resources like FreeCodeCamp. After about 6-9 months of self-study, I thought to myself, I really want to do this now.
I was looking up bootcamps and the teacher of my Udemy course was a bootcamp instructor for General Assembly in U.S and that’s how I got to learn about General Assembly and I enrolled in their Singapore chapter for a 3 month Full time program
What benefits you got after enrolling in a bootcamp vs self study from online courses?
I think what really set apart bootcamp and self study from online courses was the intensity. If you’re at home studying, you maybe watch 30 minutes or 1 hour of videos for the day and get done for the day. But with bootcamps, you’re kind of forced to code more than 8+ hours per day. It helps put drastically more time into coding to hone my skills.
In addition to that, you have an actual class environment where other people are there physically (this was pre-covid) and if you have problems, there’s people to help you. They guide you in your mental model in terms of approaching programming. Otherwise, you have to figure out all these things by yourself.
What was the balance between theory and practice in the bootcamp?
It’s a good mix. There’s theory sessions on premises for 5-6 hours with little exercises or mob/pair programming mixed in. After the class we have some homework exercises which was basically solidifying this work. In addition to that, we had a daily standup which helped us raise problems daily and get advice on solving them.
In parallel to that we had a project we were working on throughout the bootcamp with a total of 5 projects with one of them being a group project
Taking Glints as a reference, what were some of unexpected differences b/w bootcamp and the real job?
The first thing that really stood out to me was on the first step, the technical assignment. In the assignment project I had to deal with a data set of ~ 5000 rows, but in bootcamp projects, we dealt with I dunno - maybe 10 or 20 rows. Working with this huge dataset was like, wow, how to do that.
After joining, the codebase itself was overwhelming to me because it looked so gigantic compared to what we did in the bootcamp. With my bootcamp experience, it looked similar to what we learned, but since the size was so big in comparison, it was a different experience going through the codebase. I slowly figured those things out by some improvisation and help from my coworkers.
Another aspect that is not discussed really is the communication part of the job. We got together to discuss technical plans, details, product features and making plans for delivering those features. This was quite unexpected because I didn’t hear in bootcamp and there weren’t much resources on Google highlighting this aspect of collaborating with the team. Its the opposite of the stereotype of the typical programmer being alone, just doing their own thing. But I have to say, this kind of worked into my benefit since communication is one of my stronger suits.
Another surprising thing was the focus on error handling. In bootcamp, error handling was not a priority but at Glints, working on production applications, there was an increased focus on well defined errors.
One thing though that bootcamp helped a lot is the awareness of tools and what to search in the first place. Knowing that something like react dev tools exists makes a huge difference in understanding bigger codebases later on.
What is your definition of success from a bootcamp program and the qualities needed to achieve this success?
Taking the bootcamp as a means to gain independence in programming. I feel if you just sit in there and you expect the instructor to deliver everything and make you a good programmer, that would be an unrealistic expectation. The instructor can teach you all the concepts and everything, the syntax and the grammar for everything. In detail, but if you yourself, don't pick up your ass and like walk these steps, you will never become proficient.
At some point in the bootcamp, there’s gonna be moments when you feel like banging your head on the table because of some things not working. The definition of success from the bootcamp would be the ability to rely on my knowledge and the ability to work through these challenges.
P.S. This blog post is a summarised version of a fireside chat type call between Shubham and Robert.