Should I do a developer bootcamp to kick-start my career?

I used to feel like I was trapped in a dark place. Day after day of sitting in traffic to get to the office, only to sit at a desk and stare at the screen. I felt like I was wasting my life, all the good things were outside while I was stuck in here, waiting till 5pm so I could sit in traffic and head home again.

But I had no choice. There was a mortgage to pay. Bills. Food. Beer. More bills.

Until eventually, it became too much and I quit.

My wife didn’t speak to me for a week.

But I was lucky; I already had decent programming knowledge and I’d been offered a piece of freelance work, a couple of months before, that I did in my spare time. The proceeds from that kept me afloat as I found my next contracts.

Not everyone is so lucky. Especially if you’re wanting to break out of what you’re doing and move into software development.

We all love the startup dream.

No more getting up early to sit in traffic, then slumping in the office, idling away the hours till it’s time to sit in traffic again.

Don’t you wish you could wake up late, code into the night and live on soft drinks and pizza? And then hit the big time, become a name on Hacker News, get on the cover of Wired and buy a Ferrari.

If only it were that easy.

However, coding is an incredibly rewarding career.

So, if you’re stuck in a job that you hate, how do you get into it? Do you take one of those “coding bootcamps”; an intensive course over a short period of time that promise to teach you all you need to know to step into a developer job?

Firstly, it’s a lot of money to spend. With no certainty that the job you crave is at the end of it.

Secondly, it’s not for everyone. In particular, most bootcamps aren’t aimed at novices. They’re there to make you level up. Take your basic knowledge and turbo-charge it.

There’s a real danger of becoming overwhelmed by these courses. They’re intense and they expect you to have strong foundations to build on.

To get started, if you really want to do this, get teaching yourself.

For Rails, the Hartl tutorial is the place to begin. It shows you how to do things, with best practice, in an easy to follow way.

If you can’t get in to it then it’s probably not for you. If you can’t spare the time, maybe you aren’t as enamoured with the coding life as you thought.

But if you love it, if you can’t get enough of it … then we’re on.

Next step is to find the tech meetups in your area.

This is simply one of the most valuable things you can do.

It’s tough talking to strangers, but grab yourself a drink and introduce yourself. See who’s hiring and what they’re looking for. Tell them about what you’ve just learnt. Ask for advice on what to learn next.

If you can’t find any relevant jobs, consider alternatives. Ruby is my favourite language and I’d hate to work in anything else but it doesn’t define me. Javascript and front-end frameworks like Angular or Ember are in demand at the moment. Javascript on the server, through Node, is popular (I have strong opinions about this but I won’t judge you). Go and Clojure are a big deal with some startups. IF you can learn Ruby then you can learn another language.

And then, it’s time to look at a bootcamp. Because by then you’ll know if it’s worth it.