Bootcamp Developers Share Advice for Landing Your First Engineering Job

Advice from a director of engineering who began his career at a coding bootcamp.

Written by Michael Hines
Published on Jun. 06, 2023
Bootcamp Developers Share Advice for Landing Your First Engineering Job
Brand Studio Logo

Jacob MacInnis spent six months in an intensive coding bootcamp where he received one-on-one mentorship and the chance to build apps and solve problems using the latest technologies. 

Coding bootcamps as a concept date back only to 2011, and yet in a little more than a decade they have become a recognized alternative to college for those looking to break into software engineering. The Council on Integrity in Results, a nonprofit that tracks and reports coding school outcomes, found that 79 percent of bootcamp graduates landed jobs as devs within six months of graduation.

As coding bootcamps have become a respected source of tech talent, the expectations employers have of their graduates has increased, which MacInnis realized during his job search.

“Graduating from bootcamp doesn’t mean that someone is going to hand you a job,” he said. “It is merely the start of your process and prepares you to learn on your own and become a better developer and candidate.”

MacInnis’ story has a happy ending, an incredibly happy one, in fact. He joined OneView Commerce as its first-ever coding bootcamp hire and became the company’s director of engineering in less than five years. MacInnis now sits on the other side of the table during interviews and offered his advice to Built In Boston on how coding bootcamp graduates can land their first engineering job.

 

Jacob MacInnis
Director of Engineering • OneView Commerce

OneView Commerce’s cloud-based platform helps brick-and-mortar retailers bring their in-store software into the digital age and do more with their data.

 

What appealed to you about enrolling in a coding bootcamp and breaking into a tech career? How has your lived experience compared against your expectations?

I graduated from Thinkful, a 60-hour-a-week six-month program that offered one-on-one senior engineer mentorship. I have to say, the term “bootcamp” is accurate. The pace is super fast and is what I would imagine a military bootcamp is like where the cadets are mentally exhausted and following orders on autopilot but end up in amazing shape and able to do things they never thought possible. Despite the grueling pace, I thrived in that environment. Being challenged every day, learning and figuring out problems felt good and empowering. 

I was blessed to have been paired with a truly gifted polyglot senior developer who helped to clarify new concepts and unblock us. I gained a lot of confidence from solving problems daily and building apps. Bootcamps can set you up for success by teaching real-life problem-solving using the newest technologies that are the most popular in the market. I was happily surprised at how well the bootcamp prepared me. Software development is everything I had hoped for, and not a day goes by where I am not learning, building and growing.
 

It’s easy to notice the candidates who continued learning after finishing their coding bootcamp or college. They have deeper portfolios, and their GitHub activity is packed.”


What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when entering the job market after finishing bootcamp? How did you overcome those?

At first, the task of getting hired felt daunting. After repeated interviews, as well as systematically growing my portfolio of apps and experience, I became a better candidate and was able to add six new full-stack applications to my portfolio and had learned new technologies like GraphQL and React Native. Graduating from bootcamp doesn’t mean that someone is going to hand you a job. It is merely the start of your process and prepares you to learn on your own and become a better developer and candidate. It’s validation that you have the abilities and determination to push through the difficult process of a bootcamp and proof that you could be a good developer and an asset to any company. 

I was recruited by Insight Global and contracted with OneView Commerce. At the time, I was the first bootcamp graduate hired at the company. Four-and-a-half years later, I am now the director of engineering. Today we employ a healthy mix of developers from diverse backgrounds ranging from computer science graduates, bootcamp graduates and even fully self-taught developers from all around the world.

 

What advice would you give to current or prospective bootcamp students about landing their first job after graduating their program?

For prospective students, I recommend a prep course like freeCodeCamp. As the name suggests, bootcamps are run at a very demanding pace. Some of the concepts take time for your brain to accept, as well as lots of repetition. For graduates, the learning and building shouldn’t stop when the bootcamp is complete. Companies recognize hustle and tenacity. I do a lot of interviewing, and it’s easy to notice the candidates who continued learning after finishing their coding bootcamp or college. They have deeper portfolios, and their GitHub activity is packed. They are able to talk at ease about what they are working on and what they want to learn next. 

We are also looking for things that are not indicative of whether the candidate came from a CS background or a bootcamp. Questions like, “Will they be a good fit with our culture and our teams?” We’re trying to gauge where they will be in the future. Do they have the basics down and what is their trajectory? Will they be self-motivated and dependable? The job search is challenging, but it won’t always be. It will pass and you will learn from it, so try to keep your head up and enjoy the process!

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photos via featured companies and Shutterstock.

Hiring Now
Ampersand
AdTech • Big Data • Machine Learning • Sales • Analytics