Two months ago I embarked on a nine-week bootcamp. To most of you, that probably conjures images of some whistle-crazed drill sergeant yelling at a room full of fitness gurus eager to pump out 100 fingertip push-ups.
But before you let your imagination wander too far, let me explain that this wasn't your typical bootcamp.
Don't get me wrong, my shoulders ached at the end of each day and my fingers got worked to the core, but I did more coffee runs than actual sweat-inducing sprints over these past nine weeks.
This bootcamp, run by HackerYou in Toronto, was an intensive full-time front-end web development course. You might say it was strength training for the mind.
With fewer than 30 students in each cohort, two full-time teachers and several mentors, this bootcamp was designed to move career changers into the web development arena within a span of nine weeks.
A difficult task, no doubt. But, from what I've experienced, achievable nonetheless ... for those with the right mindset.
Many of those that enrolled said sayonara to their stable full-time positions or delayed heading into the workforce post graduation to fully immerse themselves in this program. And most, if not all (myself included), had been dabbling in web development for months or even years prior to beginning the course.
While I had developed graphics and content for the web as a marketing communications professional, it wasn't until I started pushing content out through WordPress that I realized I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know what all those p tags really meant and why stylesheets were littered with curly braces.
That's how I ended up hopping over the border to Toronto and choosing a less conventional educational route.
Community over Competition
The first noticeable difference between HackerYou and traditional educational models is the absence of grades. Why? Because web development isn't a competition. It's not something you can cram for one night and then forget the next day. It's about dedication, practice, refinement and endless curiosity.
We didn't hide our computer screens from one another or shy away from sharing ideas or resources. Quite the opposite.
The Lastest and Greatest
In the tech world, something new and innovative today can be out of date tomorrow. That's the nature of the beast.
Fortunately, the team at HackerYou understands that what they taught three months ago may not be relevant today. That's why the instructors are continuously updating the curriculum based on current technological trends and student feedback.
They embrace change, rather than run from it.
A Solid Foundation
Mastering front-end web development can take years. And even this fast-track program couldn't take us from novice developers to expert programmers in nine weeks.
Some of us enjoyed toying with jQuery functions, others dived into CSS3 animations using SVGs, while still others relished the customization capabilities of WordPress.
You've Gotta Do It To Learn It
A basic understanding of concepts and terminology is crucial to becoming a developer. However, reading about web development does not a web developer make.
Over a period of nine weeks, I developed eight projects - from a personal portfolio site to a jQuery plugin, logged 312 coding hours through WakaTime, and spent a majority of my 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. day coding, reading, learning or strategizing.
But Is It Really Enough?
Some will question whether nine weeks of intense learning is really enough to dive into web development. The truth is, I can't really answer that question for you. If you're seeking to hire a web developer, I can only let my portfolio and body of work speak for itself.
I will say, however, that I have learned several new technologies and tools, have seen personal growth in my coding abilities and developed a desire to continue to learn and enhance my web development knowledge.
In fact, you probably didn't even notice that time I broke the Internet...I fixed it pretty quickly!
So, if you're looking for a front-end web developer with a desire to learn, grow and contribute ideas to an open community, then please check out my portfolio. And, while you're at it, take a look at the other wonderful web developers that I'm fortunate enough to have worked with throughout this program.
We were willing to take a risk, maybe it's worth your time to take a chance on us.