6 Things I Learnt in the 6 Months After Finishing a Programming Bootcamp

A year ago, I decided to change my life. I had ten years’ experience in communications, many of them as a freelancer. I was finishing up a three-month trip around Eastern Europe but, as grew older, I started looking for a bit more of stability in my life.

I had an idea in the back of my mind for a couple of years already: to do a programming bootcamp. And, in early autumn 2018, everything in my life aligned to allow me to move to Budapest and start a program at Green Fox Academy.

I had a friend who had done the same and had great results, so I was confident I could do it too. I had other friends working in IT, who would tell me all about their cool offices, company perks and professional development opportunities — I wanted that too. So, I went head on, hoping for the best.

The school promoted its employment rate at 90% — quite an impressive figure, I thought. And promising, so promising. So, I worked relentlessly during the five months of the bootcamp, learning Java, Spring and MySQL, from basics to a real-life project, in days that would normally include 12 hours of work and, sometimes, a couple of hours of desperation.

Finally, March arrived. I finished the bootcamp! Little did I know that was when the real struggle would begin. I was counting on that 90% employment rate, on a thriving IT job market here in Budapest and, maybe, some luck too. Well, the story took a different turn.

The school was not proactive at all finding jobs to me or my colleagues. I eventually started applying on my own, to any job that would match my skills even remotely and that could be an entry door into IT. I got many “no’s”, I barely had any interviews, I sent out many applications that never got an answer. I was used to this, I had gone through the process before countless times, but it was in communications, I thought IT would be different. I started questioning everything: was it only the fact that I didn’t have experience in the area? Or maybe also the fact that I was applying to jobs in Budapest and I don’t speak Hungarian? Or maybe there was something wrong with my CV? Or even with myself?… I went down the rabbit hole. It wasn’t pretty, but I continued applying to jobs, hundreds of them.

Eventually, one day, I got an interview invitation for an IT Business Analyst position. I grabbed it with both hands. I went through the recruitment process and I was successful. I got my first IT job!

In August, four and a half months after I finished the bootcamp, I finally started working. It was not a developer job, but it was exactly what I was looking for. My end goal was never to be a programmer — I was open to it, but it was not my priority. What I wanted was an opportunity for a career, something that, in 10 years in communications I had barely ever seen. I wanted to be part of a company that respected me and that I believed in. I wanted a stable job and a decent salary. I wanted nice, smart and professional colleagues. I wanted opportunities to grow and develop myself professionally. I have all that now and, because it was so hard to get, I feel grateful every day when I step foot into the office. I am exactly where I want to be.

So, after six months after I finished my bootcamp, what have I learnt?

1. It is worth it — even if you don’t get your dream job, if you commit to work hard and continue learning, this knowledge will definitely be a plus in your CV and help you advance your career. And it will give you confidence that you can take on hard challenges and win!

2. The work doesn’t stop when the bootcamp ends — you should continue perfecting your skills, learning new things and gaining more experience just so you can rock the interviews. I committed the mistake of stopping to develop my skills, getting tangled in freelance work and in learning Hungarian, and it could have been a serious problem if I had gone down the developer path.

3. Prepare emotionally — you hear that it might take a while to get a job, but you also hear about people who land a job the next day or the next week and, secretly, you hope you will be of them. You probably won’t. Embrace this and be patient. Find yourself some support, in your family, friends, partner, and battle through. It will pay off in the end.

4. Prepare financially — precisely because it can take so long to get a job, you should prepare in advance. The bootcamp lasts 5 months (or however long in your case) but then I needed another 5 months until I got my first paycheck. So, basically, a year without an income. Make sure you have enough saved up. You will get lots of stress from the job hunt, you don’t need money stress too.

5. Be open — maybe you started out wanting to be a programmer. But there are many, many positions in IT which are not in development. You might end up being a Tester, a Business Analyst, a Product Owner, and so on. And even if it was not your initial plan, you might realize it is actually the right fit for you.

6. Enjoy the process — this is more of a life advice. I once had a period when I was living in Bournemouth, England, and working a dead-end job. I was worrying all the time. Eventually, I moved out of there and got a much nicer job in London. After all that, and with the required distance, the one thing I regret isn’t having taken that dead-end job, it’s not my decision to move to Bournemouth — it’s the fact that I was too worried and stressed to see the bright side of things. There is always a bright side. And better days always come. Stay positive!

If you are planning on doing a bootcamp — or any other crazy, beautiful venture in your life — the best of luck to you!

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