How to Pick the Right Bootcamp

Step 1: What matters most?

So you've decided that you want to build your skills via a bootcamp - congrats! This can be a great model to quickly transform your career.

But before you plunk down a huge chunk of cash for an uncertain future, make sure you focus on the one thing that matters most:

Outcomes Matter

Outcomes.

That's right: Choosing a bootcamp isn't about how stylish their website is or how many fancy logos they drop. Instead, it's about whether they can actually transform their students' careers.

So make sure you keep your eyes on the prize throughout the selection process.


Step 2: How do you assess outcomes?

To know whether a given bootcamp can walk the talk, there are two groups of people you need to talk to:

  1. The bootcamp's leadership
  2. The bootcamp's former students
Assess Bootcamps

When you talk to the bootcamp's leadership, be sure to focus on the following questions:

  • What percentage of your students are working in this field within six months of graduation?
  • Do you have documentation to support these results, including current title and company for alumni?
  • What percentage of your students don't graduate?

And then, if the bootcamp has a strong and proven track record of career outcomes, you should verify this experience with former students. Note: Don't settle for talking to alumni that the bootcamp selects for you - you want to make sure you're connecting with a representative sample, not just the few all-stars who would have succeeded even without the bootcamp.

Bootcamp Conversation

To find these former students, just do a LinkedIn search for the bootcamp's name and look for profiles that match your own. For example, if you've never coded before, don't just talk to people who had a lot of coding experience before the bootcamp. Instead, take the time to track down students who represent your true starting point and grab their email address using Saleslift. And then ask them the following questions:

  • How did the bootcamp help you get a job - did it just teach you the skills or did it actually prepare you to apply and interview?
  • Did you feel confident in your ability to succeed in a coding interview after the bootcamp?
  • How long did it take you to get a job after the bootcamp?

If there's consistency between the aggregate data shared by leadership and individual student experiences, then you've likely found a great program.


Step 3: Which bootcamp do you recommend?

Based on the above criteria, I've been impressed by Actualize. It's got an in-person program in Chicago and an online version open to anyone. And while it's not the most famous bootcamp out there, it actually walks the talk when it comes to outcomes:

  • Their graduation rate is 95%
    Lots of bootcamps can claim great placement rates when they drive a big chunk of their struggling students out of the program well before graduation. Whereas, Actualize makes sure that those at the starting line make it to the finish line by hiring instructors with both a coding and an education background. For example, their Dean of Instruction not only has two engineering degrees, but also a Master's in Education and six years of teaching experience.
     
  • Their placement rate is 90%
    Within six months, Actualize is able to place the vast majority of their graduates into jobs or internships. The secret to their success is that they spend just as much time on job search techniques as coding, via their Job Hacking program. Similar to Break into Tech, they take a people-centric view of winning jobs, focusing on what a recruiter and hiring manager are looking for - and then reverse-engineering those desires for maximum application success. The result is that they've placed grads in jobs from startups to Amazon and Salesforce.