Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why you should never finish Free Code Camp

Yes, obviously Free Code Camp is popular. It's supposed to make things easier for you to learn how to code.  My problem is the length of time, do you realize it will probably take you roughly 1.5 years or more to actually complete Free Code Camp. Here is a link to their wiki: Free Code Camp Wiki.  That is simply the required course work at Free Code Camp, you still have to actually go out and land a job.  I think 90% of people who are still working full-time will take at least 2 years to finish the course work.

I know when I was first learning how to code, I was working full-time shoeing horses all day to support my wife and 2 children.  When the children were in bed and my wife went to sleep, I would study every night from 10pm - 1am (or until I feel asleep on the couch).  On the weekends I would make up for whatever hours that I hadn't been able to study during the week.

I did this every day without fail for 9 months and 2 days a total of 827 hours.  When I began coaching people how to get entry-level QA jobs, I thought people would easily be able to put in at least 21 hours per week. The biggest surprise has been how few people actually week in and week out actually put in 3 hours of studying every day!

This is why I think Free Code Camp will take the average person who still has bills to pay and a job at least 2 years to complete.  I am a very driven and passionate person and still had a tough time at the end of the day, after wrestling horses to find the energy to study. I was barely able to keep up that level of discipline for 9 months.  I think the average individual will not be able to do this. I have helped 30+ people land jobs, and I would be willing to take a guess and say that probably only 1% of the people who start Free Code Camp even finish the first 800 hours of the course much less land a job.

To me it's cool to have Free Code Camp, it gets better and better.  I think most of the smart people who are taking Free Code Camp, learn enough to get hired and then learn on the job from there.  To start off and actually spend 2 years just working through the curriculum is not the best use of your time in my opinion.

It doesn't matter how good the curriculum is, if the end goal is to land a job in the industry, you should try to land a job as soon as you possibly can.  Sure 2 years of training will prepare you better than someone with 6 months of training.  BUT what if the person who studied the Free Code Camp material for 6 months got a job at a company and gained real world experience for the next 18 months???

Which person would be more marketable and likely to land a job? The person who has studied online for the past 2 years and has hopefully done some pro bono work as the course recommends, or the person who has 18 months of real world experience?

If the goal is to land a job in some coding capacity and not purely academic, than you should never try to finish Free Code Camp.  If you argue the point that you should be really proficient at coding before getting hired, then why not just go get a Computer Science degree and do Free Code Camp??? The truth is you could spend your entire life studying if you wanted.  I think it's better to find a job as soon as possible and learn real world experience.

Don't just start Free Code Camp because of all the SPA ( Single Page Application ) JavaScript app hype that is going around now. You aren't going to make $100K a few months after joining Free Code Camp.  Join Free Code Camp and go through the material, skip something if it is poorly done or doesn't teach you in a manner that you understand.  Always keep your focus on getting good enough at coding to 'get your foot in the door at a company'.

The truth is JavaScript is not easy for novices to learn which is one of the reasons why so many people do not finish.  Ruby is much easier, I highly recommend it for novices. JavaScript is a great language if you consider that most of the language was written in 10 days. BUT any language written in 10 days is going to be 'buggy', and JavaScript is no exception.  There are lot of 'gotchas that throw beginners for a loop.

My advice is to start with the end in mind. Learn from Free Code Camp, do the Bonfire Challenges (they are amazingly well done) but do them in Ruby. Copy the JavaScript code into your text editor and then learn how to convert it to Ruby and solve the coding challenge.

Would you rather study for 6 months and then land a job? Or study for 2 years, and then try to land a job?  50% of landing an entry-level coding job are real coding skill and technical abilities, the other 50% is a combination of: Marketing, Networking, and Interviewing. Never forget that, don't be na├»ve and think that all you have to do is simply write the code.

Keep coding peeps, you can do this!!!