Tech Bootcamp VS Online Resources

Why the hell would I choose DevLeague when I have the internet?


The educational resources online are endless. In fact, I have a list of free resources that are the equivalent of a BS Computer Science. Here, you can have it. Choosing to learn online also would build my self-teaching and problem solving skills, which is foundational to becoming a good developer. According to the 2018 Developer Skills Report by HackerRank, 74% of developers are at least partially self-taught. When you’re out there in the wild and the business team is inventing new problems you at high speed, you’re going to need to know how to problem solve, you’re going to need to know how to answer your own questions.


So, if you consider this, the requirement of problem solving and the solution of self-teaching, you might say that it’s obvious that I’d choose to learn via online resources. Many online resources are free, they don’t require interaction with other humans... They’re free.


So, WTF am I thinking?


Free Resources

To begin with, I’m a useless worm and I know it. I’ve had the link of free resources  (above) for several months, I’ve had other links like it for years, and I can tell you now that I’m linking this resource to you without having opened a single one of the links it contains. If free online resources were the right answer for me, I’d be god-damn Bill Gates by now.


You see, the resources are free, yes, but they’re also almost entirely autonomous. An online tutorial doesn’t know or care if I show up to my scheduled Tuesday night study session. A YouTube video doesn’t understand if I spend 3 hours watching the same 30 seconds of video trying to figure out what I missed.


Free, in this case, provides too much freedom. The lack of accountability and direction that’s tied to free online resources leaves me lost in a sea of collective knowledge with no mentorship and my progress reliant my own post-work motivation.


Paid Resources

Ok… So, free resources don’t work? Fear not young child, for the internet provides.


There are many paid resources available online too. The resources I found included a set plan, guidance from mentors, and evaluations by actual humans! There is also a wide range in price, which depended on how much human attention was involved, as well as how in depth the program was. The Udacity program I evaluated was cheap, costing only $200 a month, compared to other programs that would cost up to $15k.


Every program I evaluated provided more structure than I was finding with the free programs, however they were still almost all self-paced. Self-pacing provides a lot of flexibility that is really helpful in working at your own speed or educating people that are spread across time zones. I can see how self-pacing is an asset in many cases, but for me it was just another way for me to shirk responsibility. A pay-per-month program is unbothered if you take 9 months to complete their 6 month program. There also wasn’t any real motivation or way for me to keep pace with other students in the program. Everyone was on their own schedule.


Community

College was only bearable because I had a community of people around me going through what I was going through. We pushed each other further, we competed, and we kept each other from falling apart. Without my community I would have collapsed under the stress of senior year.


The online resources, paid and unpaid, have made an admirable attempt at trying to form communities around their resources, but it just isn’t the same. In chat, in forums, and even in video, you have a great deal of control over what your classmates get to see. When I was in college, I never wanted to show my classmates that I missed several showers or that I was 3 seconds from melting down dramatically, but sometimes I needed them to see that. We grew closer because we struggled together, authentically.


Online education communities, or any community where people are being judged for grades or professional prominence, is liable to become a cycle of vomitous positivity that is impenetrable by meaningful sentiment. I don’t need 500 people telling me, “You can do it!” or “Just hang on!”, I just need 5 people that actually know me to tell me to get my shit together.


Network

Further than just a community, I need a network. I’m not talking about the kind of network they tell you to intentionally cultivate by frequenting schmoozy industry events. I’m talking about the network you create naturally, by working for and with the right people.


My first job came from someone a few semesters ahead of me in college and I didn’t even know they knew my name, much less that they had noticed my work. This person graduated before me and got a job working for someone who had graduated before them, and when they needed a new team member, they called me. I got that interview because there was a network of graduates from my school working in the community where I wanted to work.


I didn’t have that when I came to Hawaii. The tech community here didn’t know me and didn’t know anyone who knew me. When I was interviewing, there was no one the company new and trusted that could vouch for my skills or behavior.


DevLeague is a program that will not only mentor me and keep me accountable, but they are also a community and a network. In choosing local education over online education, I’m not only choosing their knowledge, I’m also choosing their network. DevLeague has graduates working all over the tech community, in Hawaii and the mainland, and those connections could make all the difference, should I ever need them. 


The online resources are invaluable and I expect I'll turn to them again and again as I continue my journey to become a web developer, but they're not my beginning. I need a strong foundation, a frame on which to build. DevLeague is that framework for me.


What was your beginning? 


Jamie





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