Apprenticeship vs. Boot Camp

Recently, I have met a few graduates of The Iron Yard Academy.

From what I can tell, they have done a decent job of introducing people to some modern tools of the trade. I suppose many other "Code Schools" or "Boot Camps" do the same.
I've not talked to the folks running Iron Yard enough to figure out what their "job placement" entails. One of my clients hired a graduate who seems to be a bright young guy, but he definitely has a lot of holes… some of which would have been filled by our different approach to immersion, others can only be filled in a different context. It is something that no "boot camp style code school" can do.

I have been one of the first to point out that becoming a software craftsman does not require a college education.

But, to do it well, one needs more than a bootcamp.

I've seen no better path than apprenticeship.

I have been pointed to The Apprentice Programmer post by several people over the last few years. Many boot camp's marketing might lead one to believe that they will turn you into a professional software developer in 12 weeks. If what they mean is that someone might hire you, they are correct. You might be hired. In my circumstantial sampling of 3 recent Iron Yard graduates, 1 had a job. I'm sure my sampling does not represent their placement rate, but it clearly is not 100%. All of the factors that feed into why some have jobs and some don't are far beyond what I want to tackle here.

The one hired by my client is in a pretty good environment to learn a lot… and they have brought me and my team in to help it be even better for inexperienced developers like him. But many are hired by naive employers who have no idea how to mentor these folks and it will be a lot of trial and error learning with very little guidance. Many seem to be hired by startups.

Startups are full of optimism. They have to be or they wouldn't ever get started considering the success rate of a startup is around 10%. (Google startup success rate for some interesting reading). In my experience, the ones who are so optimistic that they think they can build their product with cheap, inexperienced programmers have a much lower success rate. Most startups don't make it, and most solid, experienced developers won't take the jobs that are being offered to these boot camp graduates. (NOTE: Sometimes there is an excellent software craftsman at the startup who will do a good job mentoring the newbie… then the newbie has hit the jackpot whether or not the startup succeeds).

In my experience, those who have been apprenticed like Tobi Lutke (the author of the aforementioned blog post), or the folks who have come through RoleModel Software, achieve a depth that very few achieve who just enter the field and take whatever jobs they can get.

We only take a few into our Academy. If you don't get in, I'm sure that Iron Yard and others are a great place to learn some very useful things.

But seek apprenticeships, not just "fast tracks to a job". The difference to your career will be significant.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash