During the last few months, I’ve done a lot of exploring of what options exist for aspiring developers. On the one hand, there certainly is the traditional university program route, but in my opinion, if you’re past college age and already have some years in the working world under your belt, you’ll be better off with one ore more of the options I list below.
Start by going to free Meetup events
There are gobs and gobs of Meetups for aspiring coders. The great thing is that they’re free and you can meet more experienced developers, get tips on learning to code, and quickly get a sense of if this really is something for you.
Tip: Introduce yourself to others when you arrive. Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re a complete beginner, if that is the case. Come prepared with specific questions to ask. If you’re currently working on a coding project, try to have worked through the problem as much as possible before you arrive.
These are some of my favorites Meetup groups for aspiring developers:
This is a great place to go to for help with coding challenges, to meet with others who also are learning to code, and to have a chance to get the perspective of experienced developers. It’s a great example of the giving-back mindset that is common among seasoned developers. Hacker Hours meets twice a week.
This is a Ruby-specific Meetup group, but a great place to meet experienced developers regardless of the language you’re focusing on. They do talks and open hacks every other meetup. The open hack or “Hackfest” is a great opportunity to get help and advice from more experienced developers.
There are of course a ton of other Meetup groups. Spend some time on the Meetup site, look at past events and be selective since quality will vary radically.
Then, if you really want to get serious, apply for a code school
If you’ve decided that this really is for you, then you should strongly consider one of the new code schools that have sprung in the last few years. These are basically the startup equivalent of a university software engineering program. Small, super-cutting-edge, a bit scrappy, usually far less expensive than a university program, and often more intensive. You will basically be coding from dusk to dawn for 2-3 months, after which you’ll be in a position to start a job as a junior developer (or build your own product.)
The Flatiron School started out as a Skillshare course, taught by the inimitable Avi Flombaum. Last time I checked (they are evolving rapidly, so be sure to check the site for the latest), they had two offerings. First, similar to the developer bootcamp, they have a 9-week full-time total immersion into the craft and culture of making great software. If you’re really serious about becoming a developer (or if you want to quickly find out if becoming a developer is not for you), you should definitely apply. The Flatiron school is very similar to the developer bootcamp, which started in San Francisco, but I think now has an office in Chicago as well.
As far as I know, they so far have 100% placement of their graduates, ie all of them got jobs after graduating.
As a low-cost alternative, consider their part-time Skillshare courses that they offer. If you are completely new to coding, you should start with their intro to Ruby course. Then, take their intro to Rails course. With those courses, if you’re very self-motivated and pro-active (for example, be sure to take advantage of their office hours), you’ll get a lot for you money.
Tip: stop by the Flatiron School on evenings and weekends (check first to see that someone will be there) and chat with Avi or one of the other founders or instructors to see if it’s the right choice for you. They’re super-helpful and friendly.
The hacker school is a free alternative to paid programs like the Flatiron school. You basically are part of a community of full-time learners and get access to workspace where you can meet and develop your craft. I actually don’t know too much about hacker school but have heard great things about and it is definitely worth checking out. As with the flatiron school you have to apply in advance for a limited number of open slots.
The app academy is like the flatiron school and developer bootcamp, except that it is free…sort of. You basically agree to give up a percentage of your salary at your first gig as a developer. Definitely something to consider if your finances are tight and you’re ready to commit yourself to becoming a developer.
Not sure which of these is for you? Reach out to each of them. Search Google for newer schools (there are probably several new ones by the time you read this.) But definitely start with attending a bunch of the free Meetup events mentioned above.